IR Print Interview: KUNG FU PANDA: THE EMPEROR’S QUEST [Dreamworks Theatre – Universal Studios Hollywood]

Coming in June this summer, the newly re-invented Dreamworks Theatre and the release of a specially-made short film: “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest” are being introduced at Universal Studios Hollywood. It took a year and a half to get to this long- awaited moment where kids from all over the world will be completely immersed in a 360 degree visual and sound adventure. Jon Corfino, Project Director & Show Producer at Universal Studios Hollywood Creative, sat down to discuss bringing together this new experience

What is truly unique about this new Kung Fu Panda attraction?

Jon Corfino: We have spent lots of time and effort to re-create the Dreamworks Theatre. It has a Mission Revival architecture with a touch of Art Deco from the 1920s. Guests line up at the entrance of the theatre and pass a ticket booth meeting a sleeping-on-the-job Pinocchio (from the “Shrek”. Movies). [They will] discover a very lavish outdoor garden with details from the many animated features produced by Dreamworks. In the lobby, they will also experience a mural show with the various familiar Dreamworks characters explaining that it’s time to go on a “Kung Fu Adventure”. The whole point is to immerse guests into the world of Dreamworks with lots of visual illusions projected onto all the surfaces and the walls. In normal time, all of the walls are solid grey, but as you enter this place, an amazing set of visual effects [is projected] giving the guest the illusion you are in fact in a lavish theatre from the Golden Age of Hollywood. What is unique is the use for the first time of the integration of interior projection mapping in order to immerse guests in a 180 degree adventure. It is as if the whole theatre comes to life in front of your eyes. We are also be using 7 Christie 4K boxer cinema projectors and a 360 degree surround sound audio. And, as an extra bonus, we will have sweeping physical effects from water to wind in order for the audience to truly be part of this adrenaline ride!

It’s the perfect illusion?

JC: Absolutely! We have created a total illusion of a world that is not just here but only projected into this reality. This is also the only show where it’s worth sitting a little bit in the back since you are surrounded by an action evolving from the front screen to the side walls. You will see “Kung Fu” fighting right under and on each side of your eyes.

What was the biggest challenge putting together this attraction?

JC: Usually when you have this type of mapped projection it’s done outside on buildings having a specific geometry. Therefore, you can use the angle and the bumps of such geometry [to establish the image]. But here, we have flat walls and we had to create a sense of volume, of depth. We had to do almost a 3D mapping projection. Therefore the task was quite complex. But, at the end, I know we made it work and you will be fooled by what you see. You will believe! Like you believed in the magic we had created in the Harry Porter Castle main attraction. By the way, this is not a 3D attraction because 3D is better used when the action comes at you from the center and front of the theatre. But here, because the action is taking place all around you, it would not have been as effective with 3D and therefore we decided to use the mapping technology of projection instead. This is all about your peripheral vision and about immersing yourself in the Kung Fu Panda world!

Special Thanks To The Universal Studios Team [Athenia Veliz-Dunn & Heather Mann]

By Emmanuel Itier

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IR Print Interview: Grace Jones For “Bloodlight & Bami” [Toronto International Film Festival 2017]

Grace Jones has been a force of nature throughout her entire career. Whether acting, singing or as an artist, she has always taking chances but it is also about the journey within and out of the spotlight. Jones and the director of the documentary Sophie Fiennes sat down at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival to discuss personal style, body confidence, the influence of Jamaica and flying amongst the stars.

What was the intention doing this movie?

Grace Jones: It was for sure a “rencontre”, a get together between Sophie Fiennes the director and through my brother. She had done a movie with my brother [Noel] who is a preacher in Los Angeles and I was invited to the screening. And this is how I fell in love with Sophie’s work…

Sophie Fiennes: I like to say we met in Church! Haha!

GJ: She is so funny. And in a way Sophie and my brother have the same mind and vision of life. And I do have deep discussion about the meaning of life with my brother. We love to dig into various philosophical ideas and twist them around. And it’s never an argument but a sharing of various ways of believing such and such things. Sometimes it’s a mirror image of opposite thoughts but it’s always stimulating and enlightening to talk with my brother. This way you learn more about each other. And this is the way your mind expands. And I do have a similar relationship with Sophie in that way. Our minds expands with our deep conversations. It’s funny because Sophie and my brother are born the same month. They are both Aquarius. Sophie is an Artist like me…she is very visual. She is about the depth of what you see and what you hear.

Where does your visual style come from?

GJ: It is for sure a combination of many things. First it’s about Jamaica! There were tough rough days [growing up] in Jamaica with no electricity most of the time. So I think this immediately informed me with a specific sense of lighting…a very organic and natural approach. We used oil lamps and this gives a very deep sense of lighting instead of these awful neons. I hate neon light.

SF: And I did try to bring a sense of this rich visual sense you only get in Jamaica. And this was truly amazing to film over there. And I always try to show Grace’s point of view. I wanted people to see what she is looking at.

GJ: And my visual style comes also from my pure imagination…from what is there in my mind. I also learned at an early age to do crochet and to sew thanks to my mother and my aunt. And this nourished my fashion style for sure. You do develop a sense of detail when you start at that age and working from scratch.

SF: And also working with all these great creators such as [Jean-Paul] Gaultier and [issey] Miyake certainly helped you develop your own style…

GJ: Absolutely! And when I started to model they were attracted to me and the way I would present myself…a total stranger way back, with only the equivalent of 5 euros!! I believe there are magnets in the world we don’t see. And certainly we are attracted each other with these various designers…like the opposite sides of magnets do. It’s simply mesmerizing how you are drawn to somebody at a certain time. I remember a place where I used to shop called The Drag Queen and I would buy very old antics for nothing and put myself together an amazing look. And people would go crazy for it. It was a very instinctive process. It’s funny how people would find accessories and clothes for me just based on how I look physically. I’m lucky to have a body that talks to people and makes them see what I should wear or not.

Where is the balance of difficulty to reveal enough of yourself in this film without totally lifting the veil of mystery of Grace Jones?

GJ: it was a difficult task to go far enough to explain where I come from and who I am without exposing everything and all of my secret gardens. There is so much more about me beyond what this film is showing. Yes…there is still a mystery about myself that even as myself I don’t know! I trusted Sophie a lot to show what she wanted to show without fully getting me “naked”…even so I’m quite naked in the movie! Haha!

You did full frontal!

GJ: Did you notice that?! I didn’t! Haha! I’m surprised there was no more frontal nudity as I’m a nudist and I am always naked at home! Everything sees me naked all the time!

Were you always that much at ease with you body?

GJ: Not at all! Are you kidding?! I had a very tight church upbringing and therefore nudity was out of the question! But little by little I freed myself from this upbringing. I revealed to myself my true nature, and it is the one of being a nudist! Haha! I joined a nudist colony and this is how it freed me from being so tight with my body. I had a hippy boyfriend and I was even with a Hell’s Angel at time. But yes, I was surprised that there wasn’t more shots of me being naked in this film. And this is not about sex…this is just about the organic pure beauty of the body BEING. Being naked and being FREE.

It’s also quite amazing how the music structures the movie?

GJ: Right! I love it as music is me and I am music! My music is like my beautiful children. I love to play with them and I don’t feel I sing them. I live them and perform them in so many different ways. Sometimes I even rap them because my voice is not where it should be. I’m very playful and it’s amazing to be able to do this with your Art. I love also going to the opera style and I learned it from Pavarotti. It was amazing to sing with him and it taught me so much…

What did you discover about yourself that you didn’t before and why do you think Grace Jones is so relevant today?

GJ: It’s a mystery to me but I’m amazed how anybody is still in love with my music. I’m still in the present and I’m still vibrant. I never look back and live in the past. I think people love this ALIVE aspect of me. Maybe I give them a sense of energy…a sense of fully “alive and kicking”. I surprise myself after all these years to still never be bored with my life and performing my songs…!

Is it true nobody knows really your age?

GJ: I’m ageless! I don’t age! It’s in the genes of my family! Only the FBI knows my age because lately they asked me to come in to renew my passport. I don’t know why, they were saying I’m under the radar. And they checked my age and they couldn’t believe it! I guess I have been blessed. It’s the land of Jamaica. It makes you immortal, ! Haha! My dad passed at 84 and he didn’t have a single line! And it’s amazing I’m still going strong, especially after everything I’ve taken and drunk! But of course when I was very young I was super healthy and I still swim. I love to swim as I feel out of space. This is where I have always wanted to go: in space. Do a concert with Michael Jackson and David Bowie and sing in outer space. Well, I guess that plan is slightly compromised for now! I guess at the end it’s all about balancing your gravity and keep the floating going in your mind…in your inner world. Just saying…!

Interview By Emmanuel Itier

IR Print Interview: Joan Jett For “Bad Reputation” [Sundance Film Festival 2018]

Joan Jett takes no prisoners. From her early days of breaking in with The Runaways to her solo act and the super stardom that followed, Jett has had ups and downs but always keep true to the music. After many decades her stage show still electrifies and takes no prisoners. Jett sat down at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in Park City (where her documentary “Bad Reputation” is playing) to discuss fighting for equality, battling for her place in rock and advice to those women following in her footsteps.

What is this documentary about for you?

Joan Jett: I think the film is in part about women empowerment and diversity. It’s about how my life was such a struggle to get there. To move forward with my career when I was told as a woman I couldn’t rock! It wasn’t easy to make it in this men’s world. It’s unbelievable that I was told one too many times I couldn’t play rock n’ roll! It made no sense to me and it was not easy to overcome this prejudice.

Was it challenging and eye opening making this documentary in retrospect?

JJ: Not so challenging in the sense that I stayed myself during the making of it. I knew I had to be true to who I am as an artist and I trusted the people who were making the film. It’s a teamwork. I did my part by being myself. Maybe it opened my eyes about the many challenges I had to face to get to this point in my life…to be here with this documentary. When you live the struggles, you don’t necessarily realize them. But with distance and time, I now realize how painful this was at the time; this journey and how difficult it was to do what I really wanted to do…which is to simply play rock n’ roll! But overall it is quite surreal to have a movie in Sundance about your life, that’s for sure. I’m quite a humble and private person so it’s a little strange to see so much focus being on myself! But for now I gonna sit back and enjoy the ride!

Have things changed for women in rock?

JJ: I’m not so sure! You don’t see too many girls rocking onTV or listening to them on the radio. Not too many swinging the guitar out there. So I’m not sure. It seems like rock is still a man’s world. But with my label I try to counter that and to give girls a chance, like with FEA, one of the new bands I back up (Writer’s Note: they appear in the Doc towards the end and some of them were in another Joan Jett produced band called ‘Girl in a Coma’). And even if we don’t have too many girls doing rock n’ roll, you have some many talented young women rocking the stage and the music business. So many singers are women today and they do control their destiny much more than in the past. Some of them even have their own music label like I do. Overall I think we have a long way to go for women in rock to have equal opportunity. We are not living in an all liberated and equalitarian society in spite of what some of the media is saying. I can still see the fight going on for women in every path of life to make their mark, and it’s not easy for them…it’s not easy. So I just hope that by setting an example with my life that other women keep their dream alive and keep fighting for it! But we have a lot of issues to still deal with and discuss like the sexual harassment issues we are facing now. But I want to believe that with time and the proper education we will keep making progress.

What would you tell young girls today?

JJ: Just follow your Dreams! Never give up on your Dreams! Life is not an easy path but anything you are passionate about you should fight for and try to get to it. If you don’t go for your dreams you will always wonder: “What if?” What if I had taken a chance and fought a little longer to really do what I wanted and become who I wanted to become. Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life…unless you’re under 18 and your parents give you good advice!

Interview By Emmanuel Itier

IR Film Review: RED PASSAGE [PBIFF 2014]

red passage-ho yo and joy flowersHo Yi (Director) & Joy Ya (Actress) Pre-Screening At Palm Beach Intl Film Festival [Courtesy/Rick Carter]

Watching the progression of “Red Passage” gives an interesting view into the perception of growing up in Communist influenced Hong Kong in the 70s. What makes it unique is that it is from the perspective of  someone who actually lived it. Different perceptions allow for different opinions but this is essentially a story of a boy dealing with the evolution of his identity and being shaped at a young age. The conflicts between home and school sometimes are defined within the dogma of what the parents think versus the teachers. Here, the tables are turned with the parents specifically spending this child to a school so he can learn the party. Ho Yi, who directed this feature, based the film upon his own experiences. He shows the push and pull of wanting to be a kid enjoying soccer counter balanced with the specific and focused meetings and ideals of the teachers at the Communist run school he is forced to attend by his parents.

Red Passage-Joy in stairs-1Joy Ya (Actress) Performing On Set In Hong Kong

The mantras and a sense of order are repeated with astounding frequency but you do see the perception of order in the party’s presence. However the structure allows for a lack of original thinking and opinion which is its downfall. The personification of education also shows how these ideals can become doctrine in impressionable minds who don’t know any better. Yi’s character is persecuted specifically by one teacher played with dexterous intensity by Joy Ha who counter pars him with dogma at every point but hopes to save him and instill the teachings of Mao in his consciousness.

red passage-ho yi intHo Yi (Director) Being Interviewed At Palm Beach Film Festival [Courtesy/Rick Carter]

Ho Yi, himself an accomplished actor and teacher, plays one of the administrators at the school interestingly able to internalize his feelings and yet show the impact of what is being presented. One of the most integral scenes though plays out in the young Ho Yi’s room as he learns and practices a nationalist chant while his parents try to sleep. It shows the intersection of both plot and emotion on a human scale which is why making this movie from the perspective of the life of one who experienced it can be so compelling. It shows the conflict but also, within the character, his revelation.

By Tim Wassberg