Director Spotlight: One On One With Margaret M. MacDonald

Margaret M. MacDonald’s twenty years of experience spans several roles in the film industry, living and working in Los Angeles, New York, and Sydney. A background in production design has helped her to hone a unique visual voice, which conveys a tangible sense of place, inviting readers into the story world. She creates character-driven films and often infuses a mix of genres with a twist of the fantastic.

Her written work includes a library of spec features and series that have earned her a few laurels and several features written on assignment. In 2017 she wrote and produced the sci-fi/thriller Enter Sanctum, which was adapted from her award-winning script, The Residents. She is currently in development on One Summer’s Night, a modern-day comedic adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Margaret has directed several shorts, including her 2021 film, The Writer, which won the Audience Award at A Night of Horror Festival. She is working on several shorts and planning to direct a larger-scale project in the near future. She is also in development on a sci-fi/fantasy novel series inspired by her award-winning screenplay, The Phoenix Effect, under contract with Oghma Creative Media in the United States. Margaret loves to tell stories that transport people into other worlds and help to make this one a little more extraordinary.

FilmCentral magazine recently caught up with Margaret to discuss her journey in the industry, and here’s what went down:

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I’m a writer and director with a penchant for unusual storytelling. I live in Sydney but am originally from the U.S., so I bring a bit of both experience to everything I create. My first passion in film was production design, but it wasn’t long before I went from designing filmic worlds to creating them through writing. I’ve been doing that for over a decade now, writing features, shorts, series, and a novel trilogy, as well as directing several short films. I love telling character-driven stories and enjoy the challenge of infusing them with a mix of genres and a twist of the fantastic. I am passionate about creating films that transport people into other worlds and help to make this one a little more extraordinary.

Your new project is very unique and intriguing. Tell us a little more about it and what makes it so unique.

I’m in the midst of making a trilogy of one-woman thriller shorts. These are all single-location stories about a woman suddenly encountering an unexplained phenomenon during the course of an average day, and I take on writing, directing, and the roles of cast and crew to capture these stories on camera. The first film is titled “The Pool” and the second is “The Bridge.” The third is in planning, and I hope to have it released in the next couple of months. I guess these films are unique because they are a self-imposed creative challenge. I’m not just shooting alone for convenience but as a way to discover how to tell an effective story through simple but impactful filmmaking. The core of each film is a basic story about a person and a place, but my goal is to elevate these stories into spine-chilling and surprising adventures. In a sense, these stories explore the experience of being totally alone, which I am making totally alone, so the process feeds the storytelling.

How did you come up with the idea to do something like this?

It all started with the moment that inspired the first film, “The Pool.” One day while I was swimming, whenever I put my head under the water, I could hear voices in conversation, doors opening, and closing; I swore I heard someone running on the treadmill in the gym next door, but every time I surfaced there was no one around. It got my imagination spinning and inspired the first story. I realized that not only could I make this story into a film with just me and my phone, but also that that’s how this story wanted to be told, simply. Two days later, I had a shotlist and a couple of bullet points on performance, and I went to the pool just to see what I could capture. It took a lot of lap swimming and a bit of improvising, but eventually, I shot everything I had planned for and more.

“The Pool” then evolved into quite a special little film, especially thanks to many talented people’s contributions during post-production, not the least of which was sound designer and composer Vitaly Zolotarev. “The Pool” got a great reception as soon as I released it, and greatly appreciated the creepy spin I gave to an otherwise ordinary setting. Creating the first film was such a challenging, educational, and rewarding process that as soon as I saw the location that inspired “The Bridge,” I knew I wanted to do it all over again.

What is the production process like?

The locations inspire me to think about “what if” scenarios that ultimately become scripts about ordinary circumstances spinning into extraordinary ones. I then spend some time on the location with my phone camera, testing various angles and lenses and trying to figure out how to best capture the story and what is unique and cinematic about the location. The great thing about using a phone is being able to stick it into tight spots or positions where I can naturally move around it. I always try to find a cool little niche or unique angle to shoot from.

From there, I make a shot list and schedule. In the case of “The Bridge,” I literally mapped out all the positions I was aiming to shoot from and then scheduled according to where the sun was likely to be as I moved from one to the other. When it comes time to film, I simply go shot by shot, moment by moment, until I have everything on camera. There’s always a bit of working around unforeseen circumstances and lots of conversation with curious people passing by. Still, as long as I keep in mind what moments are most important to the story, and make sure to capture those in a simple and effective way, I know it will all come together in the end.

What are your future plans for the project and/or what do you hope to achieve from it?

The next step is to make this trilogy’s third and final chapter. I don’t want to reveal too much about the next “The..” in the series, but I’ll just say I’m looking forward to finding lots of creative camera angles in a tight location. Once the trilogy is complete, I’d like to find a platform where these films can connect with an international audience that loves chilling and usual stories just as much as I do.

What was the most challenging part of bringing the project to light?

I’ve never trained as an actor and had no idea if I would be comfortable on camera when I started this journey. In addition to having to find my inner performer, I discovered how difficult it could be to switch back and forth between the headspace of director and actor, especially when you’re on your own. One moment you’re setting up the shot, thinking about frame and exposure, thinking three shots ahead to make sure you get everything before the light changes, planning to combine two shots into one to save time, then the next moment you suddenly need to forget all of that and be in an emotional place. At the start and end of most of my shots, you can hear me giving directions to myself, reminding myself what I’m supposed to be experiencing and feeling at that moment.

It’s also worth mentioning that it’s incredibly hard to hit your mark when no one is behind the camera to tell you where it is. Another advantage of phone filming is quick playback and lots of storage for all those takes where you accidentally stepped completely out of the frame. I still wonder what my performance was like on those.

Who is the character in these films, and how much of her is similar to you?

In the scripts, I refer to her as “The Woman.” I like the idea that her identity remains anonymous as if these stories are urban legends that begin with people saying, “Did you hear about the woman who was swimming one day and…”. She is definitely the same Woman throughout, experiencing and responding to all of these extraordinary events in a completely unique way. As much as I would love to have one of these crazy experiences myself, I know I wouldn’t react the way she does. I share her curiosity and desire to explore, but I am nowhere near as intrepid. If it were me in these films, they would end about a third of the way through with me running for safety.

Did anything funny or exceptional happen on set?

One of the quirkier and more inventive moments actually happened in post-production on “The Pool.” While Vitaly was busy with sound design, I was spending a lot of time at the location, listening to the sounds under and around the water, trying to feel out if the mix was really capturing the experience of hearing through the water. I realized that when you jiggle your finger in your ear to help release stuck water, as I do in the film, it sounds like a hand running over a microphone. I suggested Vitaly try it, and he one-upped my suggestion by sticking one of his little mics in his own ear to capture the sound. Once a wet squish noise was added to the mix, it sounded perfect.

Are there any great achievements you want to mention?

Better than any award, I’m most proud of getting positive reviews on my work from friends, colleagues, professionals, and total strangers. Every time someone has enjoyed the journey, my films or scripts have sent them on; that’s when I know I’ve done my job as a storyteller.

What would it be if you could redo anything in the process or the film itself?

Every time I make something new, I learn something new. Putting myself behind the camera and into the editing chair, as well as taking on a bit of visual effects, has taught me so much more about those arts. I’ve also gotten to know my little phone camera pretty well, trying many different apps and settings and learning about it’s limitations and strengths. I wouldn’t redo anything in these films, as they became what they wanted and needed to become at the time, but I now know how to avoid some of the issues I encountered along the way. I enter the process of making each new film armed with everything I’ve learned on the last one, the one before that, and so on. That, combined with my desire to come up with something inventive and exciting to try for each new project, hopefully, leads to a better film each and every time.

What is the next step for you?

Once the trilogy is complete, and ideally, in a home where appreciative viewers can discover it, I can dive into the next journey. At the moment, that includes development on a comedy feature, pre-production on an episode of a wacky web series, an upcoming development of my novel series, and continuing to work away on an ever-growing pile of stories that are looking for their future audience.

Actor Spotlight: One On One With Barbara Bingham

Photo Credit: Marnya Rothe/HMUA: Zoe Slatyer

Barbara Bingham was born and raised in Hawaii, and her first TV credit was on the original Hawaii 5-0. She moved to LA, immersed herself in acting classes, and has spent the decades since working and refining her craft. Barbara’s film credits include lead roles in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Soldier’s Fortune, Cop Target, and Beyond Darkness. Television credits include the mini-series Space, movie-of-the-week Bridge Across Time, and appearances on highly popular television shows such as Knots Landing and The Colbys. Barbara has called Sydney home since 1996 and is a dual American-Australian citizen. 2019 brought roles in the Deadhouse Films series Deadhouse Dark and in the Steve Jaggi Company romantic comedy Romance on the Menu. She wrote, executive-produced the same year, and starred in her first short film Over the Edge, a Hitchcockian thriller currently touring the international film festival circuit.

FilmCentral magazine recently caught up with Barbara to discuss her journey in the industry, and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us more about yourself?

I was born and raised in Hawaii (as was my mother) and moved to LA in 1978 with the dream of being an actor. Success came quickly, and I was proudly in the 1% of the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) members earning a living as an actor for the 18 years I was living there. In 1996, my husband and I left our home in Malibu to move to Sydney for “a couple of years” when my son was ten months old, thinking we’d move back to LA when he started preschool. Well, he’s 26 now, and we’re still here; Sydney is our chosen home.

How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

I performed in musicals and did modelling jobs during all four high school years. I thought I wanted to be a musical theatre major, only to find out I really couldn’t sing or dance! My first acting job after graduation was on the original Hawaii 5-0, and while standing on that bustling set, it was like a bolt of lightning went through me, and I thought, “this is what I’ll do for a living!”

What do you like most about acting?

I love the deep emotional and psychological understanding of other people. Being able to construct the thoughts and motivations of someone other than myself is truly my passion. After 40+ years of acting, I still get complete joy from creating a character and having insights into why they feel and behave the way they do. And I’ve been lucky enough to play a variety of roles, from femme fatales to scream queens in horror films.

Also, there is something very special about a group of actors (and crew) coming together to freely express their talents for the greatest good of all involved!

How different is it to act in a movie and to act in a TV series? And which one do you prefer?

I love movies; being a lead in a feature is the best job! I thoroughly enjoy breaking down a script and creating the character’s arc for each scene and the arc for the entire story. I always found working in series difficult because you were walking into an established unit with the cast and crew. When you are only coming in for a few days or a week, I found my enjoyment level was directly related to how generous and welcoming the lead actors were (or not).

What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?

I have found my American accent has been my biggest challenge getting cast here. For some odd reason, Americans are not considered a part of the Australian storytelling landscape. You’d think no Americans ever lived here! I’ve tried desperately to adapt an Aussie accent studying with Jenny Kent and Robert Maxwell, but alas, “the dingo ate my baby” might always be my Achilles heel. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be considered part of Aussie storytelling’s fabric.

What are your strong points as an actor?

Listening and creating a vibrant inner life. During the years I took a break to raise my son, I did corporate role-play work where you have to listen and react at the moment depending on what the participant says. That work kept my instrument finely tuned, so it was an easy transition when I returned to film acting. The great thing about acting is you always have skills to learn and refine. I’ve been in Les Chantery’s class this year for self-testing skills and to sit in a room full of 25 year old’s and be treated like a peer is a testament to the generosity of actors and the sense of belonging in a community.

What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

It’s all about trust. If you trust them to do their job, they will trust you. As actors, we get very precious about our characters, and I’ve learned that if you lean into the director and their vision, it will only enhance what you can bring to the screen. There’s a direct correlation between the performances I am proud of with the directors I adored working with.

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?

What I’m coming up against now is being visible in my 60’s. I am turning 65, and the world is telling me it’s time to go away and get ready for the retirement home. 50% of the roles I go out for are for old dotty grandmother stereotypes, and I’m NOT that. Sadly, ageism is alive and well in our industry which is why I wrote my short film, Over the Edge, to be able to play an interesting, complex woman at my age. There is a fight in me to stay visible and relevant; I believe the best is yet to come!

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?

I’ve always loved this part of the process. It’s like mining for gold in a script. Fleshing out the character and inhabiting their world. I feel the biggest challenge is getting locked into choices too early. You have to allow yourself time to walk around in your character’s shoes and be open to what the director and your fellow actors bring. It’s the process of discovery where you can connect the dots to why a certain behaviour serves the story.

What do you do when you’re not filming?

I have a corporate role-play company called Corporate Actors Australia that I started with three other actors. We have a large range of clients from Macquarie Bank, Ampol, Deloitte, AusIndustry, and Macquarie University. It’s very fulfilling work being able to help our participants with their communication skills. I also mentor a lot of young actors, and I urge them that they need to build a big beautiful life outside of acting. Relying on acting to fill your cup is never a healthy choice.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

Oh goodness, after 40 + years? I probably have to go back to my first day on set at Hawaii 5-0. James MacArthur, who played Danno came up to me and asked how I was; I must have looked petrified because he said, “just hit your marks, you’ll be fine.” I blankly stared at him, “Marks? What are marks?” That gorgeous man then gave me a masterclass on finding your light (the big hot klieg lights back then) and how to enter and exit scenes to block your steps to hit your mark every time! His kindness and generosity that day touched me and made me want to always be as helpful to newbies as well.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

Too many stories to tell! LA in the ’70s and 80’s?! There were dates with Robert Evans, who offered me a contract at Paramount only to take it away when I wouldn’t put on his black satin pajamas. I was under contract for Kraft with Chris Lemmon, and meeting his dad, Jack, was a highlight. A kind, loving, FUNNY man. I worked with Chuck Norris, James Garner, Beau Bridges, James Arness, Charlton Heston, and Charles Napier, among others. Kane Hodder, who played Jason in my Friday the 13th, is MENSA. I met Elizabeth Taylor backstage after a Love Letters performance; her eyes are violet! Back in the 80s, I used to audition with Bryan Cranston; he was probably the hardest working actor I knew, he deserves every bit of success he’s created, and we’re still friends to this day!

If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?

Well, it would have to be another wide-eyed optimist!

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

I’d love to create/write more complex female roles for older women. Who says I can’t play a femme fatale at 65? I was approached earlier this year about turning my short, Over the Edge, into a feature film. Enzo Tedeschi, my co-writer and director, and I are developing two versions. One is an expansion of the short film, and the other is a more character-driven piece that dives into what the protagonist Simone is willing to do to regain her mojo. Turning Over the Edge into a feature film would be a dream come true!

Meet The Man Behind The March 2022 Issue Of FilmCentral Magazine: Rahel Romahn

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Rahel Romahn is a Western Sydney-based actor, known mainly for his roles in The Principal, Here Out West, Alex and Eve, Australian Gangster, and many more. He has appeared in several Film, Television, and Theatre productions in the last 15 years, with multiple awards, for his performance in the internationally acclaimed The Principal. He has worked on numerous films, and US TV shows in the past year, one of them being God’s Favorite Idiot, starring Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone. He is also the lead character in the upcoming Australian film Streets of Colour.

FilmCentral magazine recently caught up with Rahel to discuss his journey in the industry, and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us more about yourself?

I am an avid fan of theatre, playwrights, cats, all animals, motorcycles, talking to myself in the mirror, films, and cinema, creating my own unique style of fashion, food, playing football (soccer), and Liverpool FC.

How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

I was an oddball recluse who loved to mimic people and accents. I realised there was employment for my unconventional talents. I heard about a film course on the radio when I was 13, and that is where my journey into acting began. After that, I started doing screen acting workshops in a rundown old building for $30 a night, doing a new scene each week with a new partner. It was a very underground class, nestled deep in the mean streets of Sydney.

Photo Credit: Ali Nasseri

Which factors do you think contributed to your success as an actor?

Obsession. You have to be obsessed with the art form or career you are involved in, and only then can you achieve maximum success. If you are not thinking about it and improving your ability all day, every day, you better believe someone out there is, and their tenacity will subsequently be the reason they attain great heights and book the job that was destined for you.

Which do you consider to be the standout roles of your career to date?

The first major supporting lead role I played was Tarek Ahmed in The Principal for SBS. It was an important moment and role as it finally offered me the chance to truly put into action my ability in the craft of acting. My character was conflicted, confused, angry, sad, strong, vulnerable, scary, and gentle. It is not often someone of colour in Australia gets the opportunity to showcase such a complex character, and it has been my favourite released TV Series role thus far.

My first feature film leading role followed soon after, and I played Nick in Down Under. This dark comedy film was a fantastic role for me to showcase my comedic ability and timing. I was able to bask in the joy of a larger-than-life-failed thug who wants nothing more than to enact rage on others as he has not accepted himself. It was an excellent way to include a commedia dell’arte style character who was driven by physical urges.

My second feature film leading role was Tez in a film called Streets of Colour. This film was dear to my heart as it was a character who was fighting for the right to be able to see his son. He is a troubled young man, deeply in need of some encouragement and direction in his life to that he can ultimately change his life for the better. It was such a wonderful emotional journey, and I look forward to people seeing it.

A role I had great fun performing was Little Crazy in a show called Australian Gangster. I was given full freedom to improvise with this role and was able to tread the fine line between someone hilariously funny to psychotically scary—such a wonderful dichotomy.

The role people have not yet seen is my character in the soon-to-be-released Apple TV Series Shantaram. I cannot divulge too much at this point, but one word I can use to describe my character is a psychopath. I believe he will be a standout character due to his sheer vividness.

Photo Credit: Ali Nasseri

What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?

I am not sure if an actor can have weak points. I believe it is all about adding many techniques to your artistic palette, so to speak, and once you have a vast array of hues, you can polish and shade them with more detail, specificity, accuracy, and delivery. I will always go to acting class. I want to learn until my last days. That is the beauty of admitting you will never know everything, the excitement of discovery.

What has set me apart from most is my propensity for intensity and versatility. I can adapt to any genre, tone, speed, or atmosphere and do it while performing at optimum levels with absolute precision. I don’t need to sell it; the work will speak for itself.

What have you learned from the Directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

I have learned that the Director’s most important role is casting the right actor. That is 90% of the job complete. They pick the right person with the right feeling, musicality, physicality, energy, and demeanour. Once on set, it becomes about nuance, specificity, choices, guidance, and examination of the deeper meanings and subtext of a circumstance, atmosphere, or psychology. A Director helps guide the performer to achieve maximum potential as the Director has the vision ingrained in their psyche. Much like designing a piece of art, whether it be Edvard Munch’s The Scream to Norman Rockwell’s Homecoming Marine. Each frame is carefully crafted, with the actor being either the salient aspect or the object of subtle neutrality.

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?

The difficulty of the acting business is the sheer number of people involved in it – the ratio of available roles to the amount of out of work actors. You also have to perform at your absolute best every time you act, as first impressions matter. You want your first time being seen to be memorable and exciting, as this will propel you into an energetic forward trajectory. You also have to have the right team that knows you and your instrument, so they can best support and facilitate your journey.

Photo Credit: Ali Nasseri

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?

This may differ for many actors, but I absolutely love bringing a script to life. It is where I can stamp my uniqueness, my instrument, my colour, and the qualities that make everyone an enigma. The biggest issue about bringing a script to life is feeling strongly about the way a scene is played out and being challenged to perform in a manner that does not feel justified or in agreeance with your own impulse and vision. The key to sorting out that issue is to articulate your points very distinctly, listen to the opposing views, and work out an artistic compromise. Or you could just shoot two different takes.

What do you do when you are not filming?

Mostly, I work on my acting, play football (soccer), watch lots of movies, TV shows, and theatre, and always try and learn a new skill. This year, I learned how to ride a horse, ride a motorcycle, and learn a few stunts. I also love to hang out with my close friends and discuss everything from career to activities and what to eat for lunch.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far? Or career highlights?

There are a few memorable events. It is being nominated for an AACTA and Logie award, being artistically supported by Larry Moss, being able to make my family proud and recently I was in a TV Series where my character who was meant to be killed off in episode 6, got written in until episode 12, as the Producers loved my performance. The most recent highlight was being named the 11th recipient of the prestigious Heath Ledger Scholarship, presented by Australians in Film, which is the biggest honour an actor can receive in this country. The list of judges who had chosen me as the winner included Jacki Weaver, Chris Hemsworth, Alia Shawkat, Nina Gold, and Rachel Perkins. Heath Ledger is one of the most important actors of all time and to be associated with him and his family is something I will cherish for eternity.

Photo Credit: Ali Nasseri

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

This is a tough one. I find all people interesting. I like to watch and observe behaviour, voices, tones, emotions, and subtext. It can become mentally exhausting and unbearable at times, but human beings fascinate me. I often feel like an alien from outer space until I realise, I am also human. I would say, in the industry, I have been lucky to meet and work with Peter Andrikidis, Kriv Stenders, Steve Lightfoot, Bruce Marshall Romans, Charlie Hunnam, Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone, Abe Forsythe, Kip Williams and Luke Pasqualino. Those are just a few of the top of my head names. I have been blessed to meet and work with so many more amazing industry pioneers.

If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?

Al Pacino. No need to even think about that one.

Photo Credit: Ali Nasseri

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

I want to achieve the absolute greatest heights a person can achieve in an artistic career and then help others achieve the same. I know one person cannot put an end to all of the world’s problems, but if I can at least help one person, it’s something.

Is there anything else interesting you can tell us about you?

There is no language or accent that I cannot learn for a role. Try me.

Who is your representation at the moment?

I am currently represented by the agency Shanahan Management and managed by More/Medavoy based in the USA.

WIFT (Women in Film Television) NSW Is Set To Shake up The Australian Entertainment Industry

WIFT (Women in Film Television) NSW is expanding and is shaking things up. With a growing team, they expect flow overgrowth in advocacy and industry change.  

As a WIFT Australia member, you automatically become a member of your state chapter. COVID has impacted their footprint, but with a new team and fresh energy they are shaking things up. They want to hear your voice, see your face, and invite you to collaborate, network and make changes together.   

Women in Film & Television Australia (WIFT Australia) is dedicated to achieving gender equality in the Australian screen industry through research, advocacy, education, and support for all identifying women and non-binary screen industry practitioners. WIFT NSW sits under the umbrella of WIFT Australia and holds a strong voice on the national board as well as home to valuable WIFT flagship programs, such as WIFT Virtual, Raising Films, and Mentor Her to name a few.

The NSW committee is made up of dedicated volunteers. They give their time and energy to ensure their members get the most of their membership. The more involvement from the members with their Chapter committee, the more it can shape activities and actions to fulfill the reason why members joined WIFT in the first place, and how they can turn values and propositions into action. It starts local to affect the National to, in turn, affect the global.

Yolandi Franken is the new NSW representative on the WIFT Australia board, following in the footsteps of Megan Riakos, to further invigorate and energise its WIFT NSW chapter members, ready to fuel positive change within the film and television industry at a state level. Yolandi has multiple roles in WIFT as NSW Board member, the Co-chair of events (NSW committee), Interim Secretary of WIFT Australia board, and Chair of WIFT Virtual (National). 

There is strength in numbers and Yolandi surrounds herself with other strong women of WIFT who work alongside her, helping WIFT NSW make an even bigger impact.  Each team member brings something unique and special to the table.  The current team is based on members who have reached out and offered support and those that have been there since WIFT Australia was formed.

After the WIFT Australia AGM in November, there will be a NSW Chapter AGM to vote for an official committee. WIFT NSW members over 12 months subscribed can be nominated. Stay tuned for our nominations form coming out in mid-October. 

MEET THE NSW TEAM

WIFT NSW Board Member, since 2021

WIFT NSW Co-Chair, Events Committee, since 2019

WIFT Australia Interim Secretary (National Level), since 2021

WIFT Virtual – Chair (On national Level), Since 2020

Yolandi Franken (she/her) is a South African Born, Australian citizen. She has a background of strong advocacy work in multicultural communities (nominated Australian of the Year in 2015 for her community work). She is a successful, up and coming Film & TV Producer, with a number of feature films and TV Shows behind her. She was the founder of Cause Film Festival and was its Festival Director for 3 years. Yolandi is also the Editor in Chief for Film Central Magazine and a co-producer on several multi-cultural film projects currently in development.  

Co-Chair, NSW Events Team – since 2019

Vanessa Klingler(she/her) is a German born Australian resident. She has over 10 years of marketing and communications experience across Industry and Commerce, Arts and Film and Book publishing.   Vanessa works closely with Yolandi in the NSW events.  Her marketing and communications skills have helped manifest many successful WIFT NSW events.

Team Member, NSW Events Team – since 2018

Sally Williams (she/her) is Australian born with Anglo-Saxon descendants.  She is an actor who works with diverse community groups and has worked on a variety of art mediums. She brings her skills from previous event and performance management into the NSW Events team. Sally volunteers at WIFT NSW to support and collaborate to help women in the film industry progress.

LGBTQI+ Advocate, WIFT NSW team – since 2021

Nicole Pastor (she/her) is Australian born with Anglo-Saxon descendants. An emerging actor having worked with Directors including Alex Proyas, Jennifer Van Gessel, and Michael Budd. She has an enthusiastic approach to her role as an advocate having been recently open about her own LGBTQI+ status.  ‘I am always eager to grow and learn more and I’m super excited for this next chapter in my life” says Nicole.  Her role will help bring equal opportunities for our LGBTQI+ members’ voices to the table to ensure WIFT NSW offers a safe and inclusive environment and events.  

Grants Manager, WIFT NSW – since 2021

Nicole Pesa (she/her) is Australian born with Anglo-Saxon descendants. Nicole has joined the team as Grants Manager and will source and oversee the funding and grants applications. She holds a degree in English Literature and Psychology (Hons). Leveraging her background in psychology, she soon found her passion for writing all things genre.  Her first feature film, a psychological thriller, is currently in development.  Of recent note, Nicole was longlisted in this year’s Australian Writer’s Guild Monte Miller Awards and shortlisted for the Screen NSW Emerging Writer’s Incubator.  

Copywriter, NSW WIFT Team – since 2021

Karen Witt (she/her) is an Australian born with Anglo-Saxon descendants.  She is an author with long-term experience dealing with government bureaucracy. She has published two children’s books and a couple of her screenplays have been acquired and are in development.  With decades of experience working for the NSW Government in Emergency Management, Disaster Welfare, Child Protection, Adoption, and Foster Care, Karen also brings a wealth of knowledge around pastoral care for our members and community.

Indigenous Awareness Representative (temporary), since 2021

Ljudan Michaelis-Thorpe (she/her) identifies as a Bidjara and Dhunghutti woman. She sits on the WIFT Australia board as the Indigenous Lead. Currently, she is assisting the NSW Team to find a local NSW representative. Ljudan calls Northern Rivers, NSW, home but lives in Qld.  Ljudan is an emerging writer/producer for Drama & Factual with experience in Indigenous governance, entrepreneurial business development, leadership, philanthropy, and cultural awareness training and facilitation. 

Diversity Advocate, WIFT NSW Team – since 2021 

Aska Karem (she/her) is a Kurdish woman who came to Australia as a refugee from her home country of Kurdistan.  She is a psychologist, writer and actor who recently appeared in George Miller’s film ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’.  Speaking three languages fluently, Kurdish, Persian, and Turkish, Aska is devoted to culture and diversity, ensuring that all stories and experiences are presented in a variety of ways. She brings a cultural lens to the way that WIFT NSW will move forward in 2021 and beyond. 

Diversity Advocate, WIFT NSW Team, since 2021 

Bolude Watson (she/her).  Bolude is a Nigerian-born, American-raised, Actor.  Moving to Sydney, Australia, in 2014 from Los Angeles, ignited her career with the kickoff of her starring role in Ché Baker’s Sci-fi film ‘Blue World Order’ as the female lead, Marion Connors.  Most recently Bolude wrapped on the feature film ‘Hearts and Bones’ starring opposite Hugo Weaving.  Directed by Ben Lawrence this landed Bolude the nomination of Best Supporting Actor for her role of Anishka.  Soon after, Bolude was awarded CGA Rising Star – a prestigious award given by Casting Guild Australia.  As an African American with a deep passion for storytelling, Bolude’s goal is to be part of the movement that creates a space for diverse voices in film and television.

Diversity Advocate, WIFT NSW Team, since 2021 

Kathy Luu (she/her).  Kathy is an Actor, Director, Photographer, Writer, and Artist.  Born in Sydney to Vietnamese refugee parents, she studied law and film at UNSW, before becoming all these other things.  Driven by her deep care for humanity and people’s wellbeing, and the unlimited joy and creativity of being human, she is inspired by work that is emotionally responsible and simultaneously bold, funny, unique, and playful. 

The world is hungry for real art that nourishes our souls, and we as women carry a kitchen full of the best produce with us!  If I can help my sisters, even in a small way, to get their kitchen fire started up, I and the world will have the joy of sharing in and celebrating the delicious feast they cook up!  What a banquet that will be!  I’m a soul foodie after all” says Kathy.

Industry Connect, WIFT NSW Team, since 2021 

Georgina Lloyd (she/her) is a Sydney-based actor, singer, and voice-over artist. She most recently voiced the R U OK? 2021 campaign and read for Rough Drafts at the Sydney Theatre Company. Celebrating her mixed heritage, British-Australian with Assyrian heritage, Georgina is passionate about championing culturally and linguistically diverse communities and their cultural expression. Her journey is about staying true to what your heart desires and pursuing it with integrity, fearlessness, and unrelenting tenacity. Her role will be to source and connect WIFT NSW members with external industry-related opportunities.

WIFT NSW and WIFT Australia has an open-door policy for anyone wishing to join the team and to help make a difference.  Whether it be in events or advocacy, there’s plenty of opportunities.

WIFT is a membership driven organization.  By just signing up you are already contributing to change.

For more information about WIFT events, advocacy, and memberships, please visit: www.wiftaustralia.org.au 

Rising Star To Watch Out For In 2021: Introducing Kathy Luu

Kathy Luu is an actor, director, photographer, and writer. Born in Sydney to Vietnamese refugee parents, she studied law and film at UNSW, before becoming an actor. Creating innovative short content videos and visuals for social media is part of Kathy’s creative practice. She is inspired by work that is bold, funny, unique, playful, and crazily creative. Her film The Real Zombie Housewives has won international awards for its originality and comedy.

She can be last seen acting in the NBC comedy The Good Place, and domestically soon to be released, the first Asian-Australian lead rom-com, Rhapsody of Love as the lead and associate producer. She is currently in post-production for her web series Zombie Therapy as director, co-producer, and actor.

FilmCentral Magazine recently caught up with Kathy to discuss her journey in the industry and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us more about yourself?

They say we carry the unlived lives and dreams of our parents. My parents, though factory workers by day in their early years of living in Australia, were at heart romantics, poets, artists, philosophers, dreamers, and great humanists. This explains my love for the arts and also why I did not finish law school! So love, art, beauty, creativity, movement, care for humanity, delight, and freedom (when I remember!) is who I am in more core essence – to express and live that in my daily life and through my art is what I am about in a paragraph.

How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

My first acting gig was when I was 6 years old – cast as Dorothy in The Wizard of OZ in the primary school play. My first adult acting gig was in a music video with a very talented Australian director Luke Eve, who has become a great friend.

What do you like most about acting?

Acting is so much an exploration of being human. Getting to experience something new through the characters – the process of transformation and embodiment is something else. Getting to work and create with other people and the ability to tell new stories. Filmmaking and movies are a way for people to see and experience something new. Like any art or experience, a moment of new truth or beauty in a movie can shift the way you see yourself and thus the world. Movies can be a very positive force.

How different is it to act in a movie and to act in a TV series? And which one do you prefer?

I don’t feel it is that different – same delicious cake, different packaging. If I have a delicious cake to sink my teeth into, I don’t mind what the packaging is like. Sometimes the cake needs to be made and eaten fast, and other times you get to slow down a bit and enjoy the unexpected custard and surprise layer that is in the cake. I just try to make sure that I enjoy whatever cake I am eating!

What are your strong points as an actor?

Anything involving going deep is my strength, as well as going sideways and very silly. I have no fear in going deep into a scene, nor making a fool of myself for a laugh. I’m also very good at falling over.

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?

The same difficulties you’d probably find in other areas of life! But they don’t have to be. Any difficulty presents an opportunity for strengthening or renewal of our character. Difficulty changes a person – I do what I can to let it change me in a positive way and it becomes a blessing. Plus, once you are forged between fire and iron, you bring something else to who you are and your work that hasn’t been there before. What a gift! ‘Waiting’ is a big difficulty for a lot of people in this business I feel. For me waiting changed me significantly and allowed me to discover all these other skills and potentials I had inside me.

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?

As an actor, finding your character I feel is key and also one of the most challenging and satisfying experiences. If you can find the movement and essence of your character this adds an incredible life and world to the life of a script. As a director, having a very clear vision and mood – the translation and execution of the script into a tangible form – so what you produce is as good or better than what you and the scriptwriter imagined.

What do you do when you’re not filming?

I enjoy life as much as I can. I am one for celebrating simple pleasures, as well as great ideas. Creativity, love, care, and being happy is my lifestyle. I direct, I photograph, I write, I make art, I explore human consciousness with my cup of coffee. I take great pleasure in people. I find people so rich with beauty, stories, and interesting things. So I spend a lot of time alone and spend a lot of time with people. I’d love to spend more time in nature.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

Getting my first US TV job (The Good Place) was very memorable. But right now Rhapsody of Love has been one of my favourite projects to work on – I got to work and play with so many amazingly beautiful people, and it is also the first time I got to lead a film – and that has been one of the most satisfying experiences.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far and what have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

Joy Hopwood, the director/producer for Rhapsody of Love has been one of the most interesting people I have met. Her tenacity and passion are on another level. Our producer, Ana Tiwary has both extraordinary kindness and as well as strength and vision- she is amazing at what she does. Jeneffa Soldatic, another amazing director and dramaturg has such a beautiful way of guiding actors into deep and open places and has done this for me. All these women have been so true to themselves, and I have seen the ripple positive effects it has on all those around them. It has shown me what one person can do.

If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?

Firstly, it would have to be an animation or a stop motion animation. I pretty much would like Rudolph the rednosed reindeer from the 80s Christmas stop motion to play me. If he’s unavailable then Emmett from The Lego Movie. And if he happens to be on the 6th Lego movie, then probably Emilia Clarke would be wonderful.

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

This morning I woke up thinking, “Let’s just live and love the heck out of life”. That’s my plan for now.

Rising Star To Watch Out For In 2021: Introducing Damien Sato

Damien recently starred in the feature film ‘Rhapsody of Love’ with co-star Kathy Luu, in Australia’s first rom-com featuring two Asian leads. The film has gained wide interest and has been submitted to various film festivals including the prestigious Gold Coast Film Festival. He has also been involved with various productions including ‘Innocent Killer’ which won best feature film at the International Film & Entertainment Festival of Australia.

Damien is known as a multi-talented actor with a broad range of skills including but not limited to: languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese), martial arts (krav maga, weapons, boxing), presenting, and hosting.

He has also studied at various established institutions such as the Actor’s Centre of Australia, NIDA and Screenwise, Actors Pulse, and several of Australia’s top directors and casting directors. With a firm drive for constant self-improvement and growth, he is relentless in becoming a better actor and just an overall better human being. FilmCentral Magazine recently caught up with Damien to discuss his journey in the industry and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us more about yourself?

I would consider myself somewhere between a mad scientist and a Zen monk. I like to experiment with optimising my biology i.e. performance, whilst also remaining relatively unattached to anything worldly.

How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

I got started after seeing an advertisement for talent, with the key phrase “no experience necessary”. I was very shy and awkward in front of the camera, so it was a perfect career choice!

What do you like most about acting?

I consider acting a “meta career”, meaning that it is a career that involves learning about all other careers. I mean you could be playing a doctor or lawyer one day, and a serial killer the next (not like being a serial killer is a real career). Basically, you get to delve into the lives of many people and learn what it’s like to be someone else.

How different is it to act in a movie and to act in a TV series?

Well, I haven’t really acted in a TV series so I wouldn’t really know. I guess I’d prefer to act in a movie since you don’t get locked into playing one type of character.

What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?

Being inside my head. It’s all about being in the moment, and you can’t really be in the moment if you are thinking about the moment. I just really let go of the outcome or trying to act, and just be. Often, just listening produces the best acting.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

The whole thing has been a giant blur of goodness. I would say the best times I’ve had were being paid to travel the world whilst being able to work with awesome people.

What are your strong points as an actor?

I’m a very analytical person, which tends to keep me in my head, however, at the same time, it allows for me to break down and understand characters with great depth.

What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

That every director has their own style and processes – It’s up to the actor to adapt to them, just as much as it is for the director to adapt to actors.

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?

What’s not difficult? Seriously, there are too many to list (uncertain career path, don’t know when your next paycheque will be, dealing with egomaniacs, etc.), however, it’s the challenges that make it such a rewarding career path.

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?

Really believing you are the character. Audiences can tell when you are being inauthentic or trying to act as if you are the character.

What do you do when you’re not filming?

Keeping my other assets working sharp, i.e. body, mind, and relationships. As an actor, you are the product, so you have to take care of all areas of your life to keep yourself going strong.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

Actors are an odd bunch, there’s always an interesting story behind each of them. No one really stands out when I think about it.

If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?

Someone devilishly handsome and charming… so myself (laughs). Kidding (or am I?). Truth be told, it would have to be Henry Golding, because lots of people say I look like him. It would be a good chance for people to say he looks like me!

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

Keep doing what I’m doing – putting myself out there and growing. I would love to have broken out to the U.S or international markets.

If there is anything else or interesting you can tell us

I plan to be single at this moment, there are simply too many things to do in life!

Meet The Woman Behind The Latest Issue Of FilmCentral Magazine: The Amazing Lili Liu

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A classically trained musician who happens to have a flair for theatrics is a killer combination. This combination resides in Lili Liu, an upcoming actress from Melbourne who plays an exciting role as the confident and ambitious young woman, Pinyuan Xue in her upcoming musical drama “Life as a Summer Flower,” which was originally written by her good friend, Xiaolin Shen.

Produced by Liu Entertainment (L Enter Pty Ltd), and starring Lili Liu, the musical comedy is centered during the Liang period of Wei Jing and Northern and Southern Dynasties (220-589) in ancient China. The family-oriented narrative of this series focuses on a heroine called Pingyuan Xue who originally hails from a peasant family but later emerges as a warrior who is determined to find her true love. After being overcome with a powerful vision, she becomes a legendary female warrior, meeting the Emperor whom she falls in love with, but then she eventually discovers she’s just being used for a different motive which leads her to go on a journey of discovering herself. While the series is supposed to be a musical comedy, at the heart of it is a message of determination and hope.

FilmCentral Magazine recently caught up with Lili Liu to discuss her journey in the entertainment industry and her latest project and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us more about yourself? How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

I’m a classically trained musician. I did my piano recital in Sydney Opera House and many other concert venues. But I have always wanted to write my own songs and share my love for storytelling. When my good friend Xiaolin Shen showed me her novel Life as a Summer Flower, I immediately felt I need to turn the story into a musical drama. It’s a story people need to see!

What do you like most about acting?

To become the other person. To think, act, and see the world from another person’s perspective allows me to see the world differently. When I act, I can give the voice to that character, that soul. To help that soul to express herself, to bring that soul to physical life is what I enjoy the most.

Can you tell us about your recent role in your drama series?

Pinyuan Xue is a very confident, independent, and ambitious young woman. She almost never doubts her own ability. She has lots of challenges in her life. She faced many setbacks. But she seems always to have the power to rise from the ashes, like a phoenix reborn from the ashes. I’m learning a lot from her, her brightness, positivity, and her ability to turn her vision into reality are very admirable.

What sort of person is going to relate to this character?

Everyone who begins with a humble beginning, and fights their way to achieve their dreams can relate to Pinyuan Xue. The scriptwriter Xiaolin Shen told me Pinyuan Xue is her ideal character. She is also my ideal. I hope I can be more and more like her.

How is this character like you? Different?

We both have big dreams and visions in life. We both do our best to achieve them. However, Pinyuan is more confident. She is almost always certain, and she doesn’t have many doubts. I have much more fear and doubts. I enjoy being her in the show, she taught me how to face challenges and fear, and how to win the battle fair and square.

Besides yourself, what celebrity would you like to see tackle this character?

I would like to think I’m the most suitable person for the role. I love this role. The role of Pinyuan Xue and her story really inspires me. It’s a story I have to tell. It took the scriptwriter Xiaolin Shen many years to write the story and develop the characters. I feel very blessed for the trust Xiaolin placed in me, and I will do my best to deliver a performance that even in many years’ time, I can still be proud of. Hopefully, the audience will feel inspired and entertained too.

What’s the biggest challenge to taking on this role?

Singing the monologues and act at the same time. Because it’s a musical, there are many dialogues we need to sing. When I sing and act alongside others, it’s much easier. There is a scene that I need to sing a monologue, like a self-reflection song by myself, I found it takes a lot of skills to make it natural and impactful. That’s something I’m working on at the moment.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

There are a lot of interesting people in my life. Lately, I’ve been thinking about my homestay mum a lot. When I come to Australia for high school, I had an Australian homestay mum, Daphne. Daphne encouraged me to be independent, self-reliant, and to pursue my piano dream! I stayed with her for two years and a half. She drove me to all piano lessons, introduced me to Thai food and Spaghetti Carbonara… Her love and support made the pursuit of my dream a much easier journey. I’m very grateful to her!

How active are you on social media?

Not very active… I try to keep my distance from social media. I use it mainly for work. I prefer spending time with real people. In-person.

What are your plans? Inside your career or out of it.

I want to inspire people to follow their passion and their highest calling. I believe when each of us finds and does what we truly love doing, the world will be a much happier place, we can all fulfill our missions here on earth. I have always been attracted to music, art, and storytelling, everything that beautifies the world, that allows me to express myself creatively. I will continue to create new works in the future. Both music and screen productions. I feel very alive when I’m in the creative process of bringing an idea to life. The creative energy is what drives me every day. My current plan is to do all I can, with my team to create Life as a Summer Flower one that we are truly proud of. Art and music have great powers to break barriers and enhance understanding between people – that’s what I want to do through music and storytelling, to open people’s hearts and create channels for understanding.

The ‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:

1. Last good movie I’ve seen: Howl’s Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki. “They say that the best blaze burns the brightest when circumstances are at their worst.” This is one of my favourite movie quotes of all time.

2. What do you consider beautiful and why? Helping others. I consider people helping each other, be kind and compassionate to each other to be the most beautiful act.

3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? Start a family and have at least two children.

4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d….”

If I had no fear, I’d sit down and write out my life story. Then, I could understand how I have come to be who I am and where there is next for me to go with my career. I reflect on the events of my life often, and I would like to put them into a narrative structure.

5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself?

I always whole heartily go after what I want. I don’t have a backup plan. So when things don’t go the way I want, I can feel hurt and disappointed. But I like to stay this way. Because in order for me to go beyond myself, I need to give whatever I do my devotion, my 200% focus. As Rumi said “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens”, I consider any setback or heartbreak on the way are opportunities for me to upgrade myself. So, I wouldn’t change that ‘flaw’ of myself.

“Life as a Summer Flower,” the musical series will be filming in Bendigo in July, so be sure to follow this space to find out more details about this amazing project.

Meet The Man Behind The Latest Issue Of FilmCentral Magazine: Deven Powers Aka Mr. Hollywood

Born Deven Lavale Purifoy on February 27th, 1983 in San Bernardino California; Deven Powers aka “Mr. Hollywood” is the 10th child out of 14 children. His father was a pastor and his mother is an amazing gospel singer. Deven started playing the drums at just 9 years of age, and at the age of 13, he was given his very first drum set by a member of the legendary Gap Band. At age 13, he also became California’s state drummer in his church congregation. When he became a freshman at Rancho Verde High School in the city of Moreno Valley, California, Deven joined the marching band which eventually went on to win several championships.

Fast forward to today, Deven Powers aka “Mr. Hollywood” is currently the host of the LA Live Film Festival from 2018 through to 2020. He’s also the founder and CEO of the Black Film Festival in Los Angeles. When it comes to the high life, Deven is definitely living up to it, hence you can catch him on the cover of High Lyfe Magazine’s highly anticipated Hollywood issue. When Deven’s not gracing the cover of magazines or hosting red carpet events, he’s hosting the “Mr. Hollywood TV show” which airs on AT & T, channel 99 in U-Verse, and channel 32 in Charter Spectrum.

FilmCentral Magazine recently caught up with Mr. Hollywood to discuss his journey in the entertainment industry and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us more about yourself? How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

My name is Deven “Mr. Hollywood” Powers, I was born and raised in Southern California and my father was a pastor and my mother is a Legendary Gospel Singer. I got my start in the entertainment industry doing ‘extra’ work in Hollywood for various TV shows, movies, and commercials.

What do you like most about acting?

I love the challenge of jumping into different roles.

How different is it to act in a movie and to act in a TV series? And which one do you prefer?

Well, it’s very different. You see, acting on a TV series is more on the spot with less time to prepare and get into character… In movies, you have more time to prepare and practice the script and perfect the character to nail the scene spot on. I love acting in movies because I love to take my time a execute the part given to me perfectly!

What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?

My weak point is the fact that I’m a perfectionist and because of that I get over-anxious and this anxiousness can lead to anxiety. It’s kind of a gift and a curse. I want everything that I do in life to be done perfectly. What I do to improve them is the fact I’m learning to become more patient through prayer and meditation. As an actor I’m pretty versatile – I can take on any character and any role at any given moment

What are your strong points as an actor?

My strong points as an actor are my work ethic and my ability to jump into character at the drop of a dime.

What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

Working with directors in Hollywood, I’ve learned first, and for most that you have to have tough skin working in this business; you have to develop a strong unmovable belief in yourself. Regardless of how many doors get closed, you have to move on and still continue to progress

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?

The limitations others try to put on you… Sometimes casting directors try to typecast you and say you only fit this type of a role. Another difficulty actors and artists in general run into is finding the right agent and manager.

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?

The only difficulty I find about bringing the script alive is catching the beat of the character and the rhythm of the script. Once I get a feel it’s game over – I can basically get creative and make this character real.

What do you do when you’re not filming?

Well I’m an artist so when I’m not filming I’m writing movie scripts, recording music, writing poetry, working out, and I’m contemplating new business ventures.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

I would have to say working on the Bad Boyz of Hollywood working alongside Khalil Kharraz if you guys get a chance go check out his latest movie “Redemption Day” where he did the entire fight choreography for that project along with The Bad Boyz of Hollywood.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

That’s a great question. Definitely my friend Khalil and I would have to say my business partner and my team at Big House LA.

If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?

I would have to say either Jamie Foxx or Michael B Jordan either actor would get the job done.

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

Well, I plan on taking over Hollywood and the music industry in 2021! Outside of that, I plan on starting a Street Basketball League this Summer called the NSBA TOUR. I also plan on building our Bighouse LA brands Discover My Music Radio, Black Film Festival Los Angeles, Mr.Hollywood Magazine, and Ms.Hollywood Magazine not to mention the Mr.Hollywood TV Show that’s coming soon to Amazon.

10 Of The Best Netflix Series To Binge Watch Right Now

Movies are a great way to pass the time during the quarantine but sometimes, you need something that’s a bit more time consuming and a bit lengthier; that’s where TV shows come in. TV shows on streaming services allow people to binge-watch entire seasons in a day or so; catching up on the latest hit show everyone’s talking about or reliving a beloved favorite instantly with the click of a button. With nothing but time on our hands, there are lots of high quality shows on Netflix to soak up your time. These are my picks for the top 10 best TV shows available on Netflix right now.

1. NBC’s “The Office”

The show that everyone goes to when they can’t find what they’re looking for, “The Office.” People have made memes about how common it’s become for people to just end up rewatching after scrolling through titles trying to find something new. “Office” is easy to sit down and enjoy a comedy ensemble piece that just works no matter which episode or season you find yourself landing on. It’s great as background noise or to fully absorb and focus, either way, nothing says “Best TV show” than the one you always find yourself going back to again and again.

2. “The Good Place”

Despite having ended just last year, “Good Place” has not only become one of my favorite shows ever but is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest TV shows ever created. This show is exploding with creativity, brilliant humor, and an excellent core group of characters that features some exciting new talents and the ever-lovable Kristin Bell and Ted Danson. To speak too much of this show would spoil mountains worth of clever writing and plot twists that even the sharpest viewer can’t see coming. It’s about a girl who dies and goes to Heaven (referred to as ‘The Good Place’) only she’s not supposed to be there and belongs in “The Bad Place” and tries to become better so she can stay and that’s all I’ll say. Highly, HIGHLY recommended, a must-watch.

3. Stranger Things

This was the Netflix flag show that put them on the map and remains easily their most creative and impressive, high-quality original programming to date. With 3 seasons under their belt and a 4th one on the way, “Stranger Things” nostalgic 80’s sci-fi story about a psychic girl opening up dimensions that leak monsters in a sleepy little town continues to grab people’s attention and wow them with their incredible cast and original writing and unique storytelling. Even after countless new shows have come out of Netflix’s original TV slate, “Stranger Things” is a landmark accomplishment that brings viewers everything they never knew they wanted and more.

4. Marvel’s “Daredevil”

Another “big first” for Netflix, this was Marvel’s first streaming service only TV series made exclusively for Netflix and man; what a way to start. “Daredevil” was a dark, violent, gritty and brutally intense take on the superhero character Ben Affleck famously butchered in film form. This show allowed Marvel to explore darker, mature levels that none of its films could attempt, and not only that, but they did it smashingly well. Charlie Cox, Deborah Anne Woll and Vincent Dinofiro lead a stellar cast of compelling characters and continue to push the boundaries of a more grounded superhero approach. Of all the Netflix spawned Marvel shows, “Daredevil” remains the cream of the crop and with 3 full seasons, it’s a fantastic show to get sucked into.

5. The Dragon Prince

Netflix not only excels with live-action programming, but it also has a few home runs in the animation ballpark as well. From the creators behind “Avatar: the last air bender,” “Dragon Prince” follows two young human princes and a female elf assassin as they try to prevent a war between the mystical world and the human world by returning a dragon egg back to its royal mother. What the show lacks in animation polish it makes up for with elaborate world-building and likable characters. It’s a show that has a little bit of something for everyone and continues to grow in maturity, raising the stakes, expanding relationships, and becoming a deeper and more emotionally powerful show with each season. It’s great for adults, young adults and teens alike.

6. The Haunting of Hill House

Horror TV series is a relatively new trend that has grown thanks to such shows as “The Walking Dead” (another great series to see on Netflix) and “Scream: The Series.” Netflix’s TV adaptation over the book is genuinely terrifying and macabre and also very human and real with well-developed fleshed out characters and family drama story explored over a unique narrative approach. The great thing about this show is its replay value. You can watch this show multiple times, still, be scared witless and discover new story elements, new hints, and new ghosts with each viewing. It’s fright fest for sure but so well made and written, it’s worth the nightmares.

7. Sex Education

Looking for something a bit different? “Sex Education” is a comedy teen series with a very mature flavor that continues to explore all kinds of wild sides for your viewing pleasure. Asa Butterfield is an awkward teen whose mother (Gillian Anderson) is a sex therapist and her profession has given him some unique insight into the student body at his high school. The show digs deep into every kind of sexual/mature subject matter, from masturbation, LGBT relationships to defining family labels in a weird world of sex and it’s highly amusing and fascinating. Season 3 got delayed from the pandemic but you got 2 full seasons to enjoy.

8. Marvel’s “Jessica Jones”

Those seeking female empowerment can’t get much more literal than Marvel’s booze binging, female PI; Jessica Jones played to perfection by Kristen Ritter. “Jones” is another fine example of Marvel branching out and exploring different genres, this one is mystery mixed with superhero drama and it works surprisingly well. It’s a shadowy story that showcases the worst of humanity’s underbelly and holds nothing back. Little by little, new pieces to the expanding story is discovered and it easily sucks you in with its cryptic clues. On top of that, “Doctor Who” himself, David Tennant plays one of the best TV villains ever put to film; he is reason alone to binge this show.

9. Marvel’s “Luke Cage”

Another different approach to superhero television, “Luke Cage” brings a cultural aspect to Marvel’s universe with a simple concept that excels and works on so many levels: a bulletproof African American man in the rough streets of Harlem. Featuring a predominantly African American cast, “Cage” puts a camera on life on the streets and displays gang/gun violence with a superhero lens; bringing quality tension and drama in a world of people with powers and science experiments. The cast is the real powerhouse of the show and becomes even more phenomenal in the second season. With the likes of Mike Colter, Alfre Woodard, and Mahershala Ali, this show is a different taste of edge you won’t be disappointed in.

10. A Series of Unfortunate Events

One of the first series I saw when I got Netflix, “Unfortunate events” is truly a unique show in every sense of the word. It’s a fractured fairy tale about 3 orphans who embark on a weird and wild adventure to escape the clutches of their villainous guardian; Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris). The show is a mixed bag of genre combinations: humor, drama, tragedy, family-friendly, musicals and so many more. The show plays like its children aimed but its humor and unique narrative structure can easily capture anyone’s attention. And with numerous cameos from multiple stars such as Peter MacNicol, Tony Hale, Joan Cusack, Patrick Warburton, Nathan Fillion, and many more, this show will continue to surprise you episode after episode.

One On One With “The Rookie” Star Titus Makin

Butterfly Ali is an up and coming artist who’s destined to have a meteoric rise. If he looks familiar, you’re right. Born and on IMDB as Titus Makin, Butterfly Ali currently stars as gritty rookie LAPD officer on ABC’s “The Rookie,” and is recognized from his teenage breakout roles in the hit TV series “Glee” and “Pretty Little Liars.”

In his new single “Listen to Me,” Butterfly Ali makes a true musical statement of who he is in under three minutes. He has all the charm and careful attention to detail as you would expect from a perfectionist obsessed with 60’s Motown, Stax Records, and 70’s funk. For him, music delivers something that Hollywood just can’t, where he accepts nothing but complete control over his art.

StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Titus Makin aka “Butterfly Ali” to talk about his journey in the entertainment industry so far and here’s what went down:

How were you actually ‘discovered’? A chance encounter on the street? Audition?

I was able to do a showcase in Los Angeles in front of agents and ended up getting signed.

What do you like most about acting? –

I love that it gives me an opportunity to tell someone’s story that wasn’t raised like and is not similar to mine. I enjoy getting to live life from somebody else’s perspective

Can you tell us about your role in The Rookie?

I play rookie officer Jackson West. he’s the son of the commander of internal affairs so everyone thinks that this position was handed to me, but I continuously try my best to prove that I deserve to be in the position that I’m in and that I didn’t expect a handout.

What sort of person is going to love this character?

I feel like Jackson really identifies with people who may consider themselves an underdog. Jackson has to continuously prove himself to people until finally earning his keep, in his opinion.

How is this character like you? Different?

Jaxon and I are similar in the sense of our work ethic but extremely different in every other facet. I’m a little bit more confident and willing to stand my ground/stand up to people a little bit more than he is.

What’s the biggest challenge to taking on this role?

It’s been a blast actually, learning police jargon has been proven to be pretty challenging at times.

Besides yourself, what celebrity would you like to see tackle this character?

Maybe Jaden Smith.

Besides yourself, which actor in this show is going to blow people away?

Every single character to be quite honest. Guest stars and leading cast alike are all powerhouse actors and do a fantastic job.

If you could play any other character in this show, who would it be?

I would play Officer Harper‘s role. I think it’s awesome that she gets to go undercover and have an alter ego. Seems like that would be a lot of fun to play with.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

Honestly playing this role in the rookie but also going on the world tour with Glee many years ago.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

I got to meet one of my favorite actors, Will Smith. Not many things have topped that meeting quite yet, but I’ve been blessed to meet some amazing people.

How active are you on social media?

I would say moderate.

What is your favourite social media platform?

Instagram, but TikTok is coming close.

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

I would love to go on tour with my music and occasionally pop over and do an amazing film before going back on tour.

The ‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:

1. Last good movie you’ve seen: Invisible Man

2. What do you consider beautiful and why? Humanity, because God created us in his image.

3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? Go on a stadium tour with my solo music.

4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” – skydive

5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? Sometimes I love way too hard