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Derek Siow -  Actor Interview

Derek Siow Front Page PhotoDerek Siow is one of those people you could sit and talk to for hours on end, both because he is so affable and he is an immensely talented actor, screenwriter and voice actor, who has worked in film, theater and the burgeoning video game market. The Australian thespian who now makes his home in London, England, he is part of the cast for the audio book The Sandman: Act II, which featured a stunning cast that included, James McAvoy, Emma Corrin, Brian Cox, Kat Dennings, John Lithgow and Bill Nighy. He also has two films in postproduction that he is not yet at liberty to talk about.

Before we get into Derek Siow’s acting let’s spend a moment or two talking about his other passion, screenwriting.

“I write sci-fi, drama and comedy and I write mainly because I just crave that creative outlet. In my younger days I wrote a lot of songs (oh right we forgot to mention his music, but we will!) but my writing is more focused on screenplays now. I was really fortunate last year when one of my comedy scripts placed as a semi-finalist one of the screenwriting competitions so I’m always looking at the various options on where to take my projects,” he says.

Derek Siow’s acting career got a big push in 2013 when he played the character Lee in the feature film Piercing Brightness.

“This was a very thought-provoking film. It was more a piece of art than anything else and it was screened at various film festivals, as well as the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London). My character Lee was a Chinese immigrant that meets this local British woman and her mother who is an alien seeker. It explored the similarities between aliens from another world and people from other countries. A lot of the themes are still relevant today,” he explains.

Speaking of aliens, Derek Siow is passionate about the science fiction genre, but he assures us he has both feet firmly planted Read More

Doug "Cosmos" Clifford - New Album

Doug Clifford 2021 album photo front pageThe album Clifford / Wright: For All the Money in the World opens with the title song and it sets the table for a fabulous collection of never before released songs from the 1980s recorded by Doug “Cosmos” Clifford and featuring guitarist Steve Wright who like many of the fabulous musicians who appear on this album, was once a member of the Greg Kihn Band. Keith England’s vocals lead the way and are well-suited to straddle the genres of Rock and Pop.

Doug Clifford is always a welcome guest at Riveting Riffs Magazine and he sat down with us from his home in Nevada to talk about this new / old album or if we may a record that should quickly become a hot collector’s item, not just because of the people playing on it or the fact Doug Clifford produced it, but the songs are also very good! Keep reading and we will soon reveal why this album took so long to see the light of day.

He says, “There are some really talented guys on this album and needless to say I’ve got some pedigreed guitar players. Clifford / Wright started with Steve Wright and I writing songs together and then all of a sudden, we were pretty prolific together. I said we better record these things or we are going to forget them. When I do that, I do what I call a finished master that would be put out in the marketplace. I was making records that sound professional and sound like what this record sounds like with the intention that someone is going to hear it (editor’s note: instead of an unfinished demo, that is usually very bare bones). I never wanted to put it out with just an acoustic guitar, dry vocal and say use your imagination. I don’t want people using their imagination, I want them to say wow that sounds good. Well yeah, we are making records here, we are not putting out junk. That has always been my modus operandi.”

Doug Clifford continues to talk about the album, “We had a terrific singer in Keith England. He is great. Steve Wright is an amazing bass player, but he is no longer with us. There are a couple of keyboard guys (on the record) who were in major bands.

I did my singer / songwriter album with Magic Window and I thought Read More

   French Designer Alice Berry Atelier

Alice Berry May 2021

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Sayonara Sorrow - Ben Brown

Ben Brown Photo Front PageSinger, songwriter and musician Ben Brown from Austin, Texas sat down with Riveting Riffs Magazine recently to talk about his new album Sayonara Sorrow a collection of songs whose music is as beautiful as the lyrics are poignant. A common thread throughout these songs is social commentary, which should not be mistaken for being political, because that it is not. Commenting on social issues through music is a familiar theme For Ben Brown as the Pennsylvania born songwriter and his brother Jeff, who tragically passed away a few days after this interview, recorded the song “That’s How the West was Lost,” with their band The Savage Poor.

He says, “The song, “What Will Happen to All that Beauty,” was inspired by novelist and activist James Baldwin. James Baldwin was a writer and activist in the sixties and seventies. I was reading some of his writings a few years ago and the line “What Will Happen to All that Beauty?” is a direct quote from one of his essays called The Fire Next Time. At the end of his essay, he talks about what will happen to the beauty that is blackness. He equates beauty with blackness. He says what will happen to the beauty of blackness, in the United States if we don’t reconcile the racial injustices. He said this in 1968. When I read that line it sounded profound and like a great title. Shortly thereafter I heard music in my head that seemed to fit the mood and the tone, so it went from there. I made a YouTube video with a quote from James Baldwin and some stock footage of 1960s civil rights activism.”

Ben Brown takes the lead vocals on the song, “What Will Happen to All that Beauty,” while producer Mick Flowers lays down the drumbeats, Jeff Brown plays bass  Read More

Yassmine Othman - Actress

Yassmine Othman front page photoRecently Yassmine Othman completed the short film, The Future Awaits, in which she is one of only two protagonists, acting opposite Kike Torres, a wonderful actor. In five minutes and twenty-one seconds under the direction of Roberto Pérez Toledo, both actors turn in a heartfelt performance and Yassmine Othman’s character mirrors the woman she is in real life, caring, insightful, a polyglot, and someone who both pursues her own dreams and inspires dreams in others.

For those of you who have not yet discovered the world of short films, you would do well to set aside some time to do so. Recently we have interviewed, directors, actors, actresses, screenwriters and directors of some incredible short films and The Future Awaits is one of them.

Yassmine Othman brings up to date concerning her other film ventures, “Also, another feature film which I worked in Tomorrow We’ll Be Dead directed by Michael Steiner premiered at the Zurich International Film Festival and the short film in which I was lead The Cake, directed by Andrés Eguiguren will premiere at the end of October on The Mill’s website and YouTube.”

Where Yassmine Othman finds the time to balance all the various aspects of her creative career, as an actress, a language and dialect coach and the host of her own podcast, Cuentamelo con un Café (Tell Me Over Coffee), in which she interviews people from all aspects of television and film, would at first glance leave one wondering how? Yassmine Othman however although beginning her acting career as a teenager pursued a very successful career in international Read More

Grace Pettis of Nobody's Girl

Nobody's GirlIf you have never before heard the music of the Austin, Texas, all-women band Nobody’s Girl, you are going to fall in love with their signature harmonies. Comprised of Betty Soo, Grace Pettis, and Rebecca Loebe, the trio released their self-titled album on July 30 th and they are backed by some fabulous musicians. Grammy Award winning producer was at the helm and he also doubled on percussion and keyboards, as Nobody’s Girl was also accompanied by Glenn Fukunaga played bass, guitarists were Charlie Sexton, David Grissom and David Pulkingham, while drummers J.J. Johnson and Conrad Choucroun kept time on drums. The album was released on the Lucky Hound Music label. Grace Pettis sat down with us recently to talk about the new album.

The second song “Rescued,” is one of those ones that is perfect for summer, with the top down on your convertible, the radio blasting and you and your friends singing along.

Grace Pettis agrees, “Absolutely, yeah, yeah, we wanted it to be that kind of a song when we were writing it. I am really glad that we have a song like that on the record. We are all serious songwriters. We enjoy the craft of songwriting. We take it seriously and in a lot of our songs we touch on things that are a little deeper and meaningful to the cultural things. We also have fun and I think that is a big part of why we want to keep playing music together. We really enjoy each other’s company, and we have a lot of fun. We are like a mobile slumber party when we go on tour. It is work, but at the end of the night when we are back in the hotel room it is a fun thing being in a  Read More

Norwegian Actress / Director

Camilla Brown Photo FiveIn September Norwegian director, screenwriter and actress Camilla Roman’s short film Waves premiered at the tenth Global Nonviolent Film Festival in Hollywood, California. Riveting Riffs Magazine had the opportunity to watch Waves. Like other films that Camilla Roman has written and directed Waves packs a powerful message that is very relevant to this moment in time.

Without giving away too much of the storyline, asylum seeker Leyla played by Tonje Thwin and Stig portrayed by Eric Vorenholt meet during a COVID-19 lockdown, while Stig is making a delivery to her home. All is not what it seems however and as the story unfolds the characters have to make a decision to trust one another and to tell their own stories.

Norwegian readers will recognize Tonje Thwin from television series such as Sol, Snart Seks (2016) when she was cast in the role of Linnea’s mother and her regular role as Fiona in Hotel Caesar between 2014 – 17. Eric Vorenholt is best known for his role as Arne Hammer in The King’s Choice (2016), which was in consideration for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. He also appeared in six episodes of the 2020 television series Vikingane.

Camilla talks about casting both actors, “I thought Tonje Thwin and Eric Vorenholt would be excellent choices for this film. When I wrote the script they appeared in my mind, because I knew them a little bit. It was the natural choice to ask them. They said yes and I was very happy that I cast them. I think both of them are excellent actors.

I can tell you why I was  Read More

Gretchen Parlato & Flor

Gretchen Parlato Photo Front PageTen years had gone by since Jazz singer, composer and lyricist Gretchen Parlato and I last sat down to have a chat. A lot had changed both in the world and in Gretchen Parlato’s life during that time. She moved from New York City back to Los Angeles to be closer to her family, she got married and she now has a seven-year-old son. She received a Grammy Award nomination, Best Jazz Vocal Album, in 2015 for her album, Live in New York City. Her sense of humor, which was so evident a decade ago is still evident and as we talked over the phone she was just as insightful, introspective and still comfortable in her own skin.

Ten years ago, she told this writer, “The goal of art is to reflect who you are and to reflect your life. It has been a process for me to get to that place and to realize that it is okay to not try to sound like anyone else or to try to be like anyone else. It is just being completely honest and open and vulnerable. I want to be versatile, but I also want to sound like me.” 

Did she still feel the same and does her new album Flor (her quartet has the same name), reflect that same sentiment?

She enlightened us, “I am pleased with my thirty-five year old self for saying that (she laughs lightly). I would agree, that was my path then and it was my self-realization then. It is definitely a continued path now. Our art is a reflection of our life, so my life now and for the past seven years of motherhood is very different than when I was thirty-five, single, independent, and doing whatever I wanted to do, when I was touring the world. It did take me a little bit of time even  Read More

Ana Muñozo - Costume Designer

Ana Munozo Photo Front PageCostume designer Ana Muñozo has designed for productions in theater and film, in both Barcelona, Spain and in New York City. She has lectured at Fordham University in the United States and UNED University in Spain. Although, she is a designer, you discover while in conversation with her that she is part costume designer, with a bit of director, a dash of screenwriter and with an affinity for actors and actresses.

Ana Muñozo studied fashion design and in fact spent four years at the beginning of her career in the industry and established a fashion brand with some colleagues.  

“On white fabric we hand painted the prints ourselves and we made a color chart for every season.

We designed accessories such as ties, fans, umbrellas, scarves and dresses. Actually, the original idea were nightshirts, I remember when I showed them to a client, she told me that she saw them as dresses and I said, "as long as you sell it, I don't care if they wear it to dinner or to dream." We did everything ourselves, the boxes, the labels, they were exclusive and on the label the client could see the number of the series. (There might be) a series of fifteen and you bought number four, therefore you knew that there were only fifteen of that model. We did fashion shows in different places like the international "fashion cafe" and we also participated in some collective exhibitions. I also worked at different times as a stylist for several publications,” she says.  Read More

Executive Producer Jeanette B. Milio

Jeanette B Milio Photo front pageRecently, Riveting Riffs Magazine sat down with Jeanette B. Milio who depending on the project she is working on sometimes wears the hat of producer and sometimes she dons the executive producer’s hat. During the course of her career Ms. Milio has garnered significant respect from her peers, networks, film studios and distributors for her keen business acumen and her knowledge of how to finance and produce a feature film or television and streaming series that will put people in the seats in cinemas or have their eyes glued to their television sets at home. We asked Jeanette B. Milio if she would be gracious enough to take us behind the scenes and explain the business side to us.

Jeanette B. Milio’s story begins in a small town outside of Cologne, Germany, where she was raised by a single mother, who was a hairdresser. At first glance this would appear to be an inauspicious start and far removed from the life she built as a movie mogul, but she credits in part, her success to lessons learned from her mother (more about that in a minute).

“I didn’t have any idea of what this industry would be like.

The one thing I remember that drew me to storytelling even as a child, is that I would come up with little stories and I would engage all the children on our street to perform the stories in Saturday morning theater pieces on the stairs in front of our house. I invited all of the other neighborhood kids to come and watch the plays and to pay ten pennies. I think I was ten or eleven  Read More

Evie Sands - New Album

Evie Sands Photo Front PageEvie Sands started her music career (writer puts hand over mouth and mumbles, as it is never polite to discuss a woman’s age) that many years ago, but you would never know it from her new album, her vocals are crisp, the music more imaginative than many of today’s artists, and that is not a slam on today’s musicians and songwriters, but rather a nod to Sands. If you were not aware of all that Evie Sands has already accomplished during her career, you might think she was just starting out, because of her unbridled enthusiasm.  We wondered how she has managed to stay on top of her game and with such a contagious, positive and fun attitude.

“I trust in the music and then I let it go. I think it is probably a combination of things. It is my ongoing and will be forever, my insane passion for music, about making it, listening to it and breaking it down. I enjoy it, but I like to figure out what is that stuff sonically, what is going on and it is the enjoyment part of it. It is just ongoing. It is just like I was born, and I started listening. I just get excited. Then there is the striving to continually get better and all the skills that are involved, whether it is continuing to be a better singer, a better songwriter, better composer, a better musician, a better producer and engineer. It drives who I am.

I never look to chase the trends. I have learned that is a losing game. By the time we see and hear things, it already took a while for those things to be created and released, so by the time we say that must be the kind of stuff people want to hear and by the time I could get it out there it would be a day late and a dollar short. It would be old news. Also, it wouldn’t be honest, because for me making music is all about being connected  Read More

 

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Bill Toms is Movin' On

Bill Toms front pageRecently, Pittsburgh singer, songwriter and musician Bill Toms returned to playing before audiences with his band Hard Rain, as North America slowly starts to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. These were also the first times that he had to perform in a concert setting, songs from his new album Movin’ On, so we asked him how all that felt.

“There was quite a bit of nerves. The fact that we had not played in front of an audience for over a year, and we were playing some songs we’ve never played before made for some uneasiness. But that first show in Columbus (Ohio) was amazing and soothed the soul. It also seemed to do the same for the audience. We are (now) certainly rebooted and ready to go. The new songs are being received well.  It is always nice to have fresh bait in the box.

We started rehearsing in mid-April, and it felt good to start up those engines and to feel that band behind me. It was an unbelievable feeling. You have to remember too, that I started playing in bars in 1980, so for forty years I always had a gig and a calendar with gigs in front of me. For the first time it was all gone. That was quite a shock. Making this record was therapeutic and saved my sanity,” he says.  

Movin’ On is a musical novella, not so much because there is exists a common theme between the songs, but rather, because they are a collection of stories set to music.

Always thoughtfully and reflectively, as Bill Toms shares his views, he says, “I think sometimes storytelling is a lost art. I love to do storytelling types of concerts. I do a lot of shows, with just an acoustic guitar and me and when I can gather up songs that I really like to break down. I talk about the stories that surround the songs and the environment that they are in. I enjoy that and I think it is something that people don’t do too much anymore.”

One of those songs is the song, “I Keep Moving On,” which was inspired by a conversation between Bill Toms and a friend of his who is a lawyer.

“I had dinner or lunch with a friend of mine, a year and one-half or two years ago and he is a lawyer and I’m an artist. He was trying to give me some ideas about financial planning and some business opportunities. I don’t think that way, I am an artist. He is going through all his stuff, and he said tell me about the music business, so I started to explain to him how we get paid, about the gigs and how the bookings are done. After about a half-hour of this he put his pen down and he looked me right in the eye and he said you tell me why you do this. He said, the hours suck, the money stinks and you are sleeping in terrible hotels. To be honest with you, I couldn’t explain it to him. He would never have understood. That was the start of the song, “I Keep Moving One.” No matter what I do I can never explain to somebody who doesn’t understand the creative process what would drive somebody to do what I do. Why do you live this life? It is because this is how I was born,” he says.  

One more thought about this, before we continue, Bill did you choose music or did music choose you?

“Music chose me,” he says without any hesitation.

The fifth song on the album may be called “Ain’t No Walking Back,” but the rhythm, the groove and the melody take us for a ride in a musical time machine back to the 1960s and early seventies. Read More

Maia Sharp - New Album

Maia Sharp Photo front PageMaia Sharp’s new album Mercy Rising takes the listener from the highs, of the beautiful, seductive and romantic “You’ll Know Who Knows You,” which may be the ultimate love song of this century, to the reflective and picturesque “Things to Fix,” about a relationship that has ended. The former, burns with passion, mixed with ‘I want you and nobody else,’ and the latter uses the metaphor of fixing broken and worn things in a house for what the individual failed to address in the relationship, that perhaps would have made a difference. The words, “What I should have said / And what I should have done / Ya’ I keep skipping over number one / On my list of things to fix,” will take anybody who has been in that moment back there again.

The person in “Things to Fix,” stands in contrast to “John Q Lonely,” from Maia Sharp’s 2008 album Echo, and he was also dealing with a relationship that had come to an end.

She explains, “It shows that I have been doing it long enough that we can compare the end of a relationship thirteen years ago compared to the end of a relationship now.

“John Q Lonely,” is just a crab and his reaction to being hurt is just takes his football and he is going home. He is not going to play this game anymore. He closes himself off. His reaction is to pout. If love didn’t like me then I’m not going to like love.

“Things to Fix,” is a pretty different mindset. It is open and she is aware enough to see that there is something at the very top of my list that I’m avoiding, but the crux of the song is procrastination. It is when you have something in front of you that you should really be prioritizing. All of a sudden, the screw in the doorknob is the most important thing, because you will do anything to distract yourself from the most important thing you should be working on.

The biggest difference between the songs is “John Q Lonely,” was a title that I had, and I brought it to my co-writer Mark Addison who I had been writing with on and off since my first album. It was from a phrase that we liked, and we created a character. “Things to Fix,” is real. I moved to Nashville at the end of 2019, and I found my place a couple of months later. Anytime you move into a new house there is always something. There are little things that…as cool as the previous owners were, there are always little things.

My marriage of twenty-one years ended in 2018, so I came here as a single person. There were things I said to her that I wish I hadn’t and things that I didn’t say that I wish I had. Since then, I have had the opportunity to write those things. We are really, really close and there is a ton of love there and there always will be. At the time I came here, and I thought well I don’t know how to fix that yet, so I am going to paint this room and I am going to clean the baseboard. I occupied hours of my time on the house things. The song is more literal than you might suspect.

I had the first verse and the concept of the title. A wonderful songwriter, Read More

Camila Rodriguez Bohorguez

Camila Rodgriquez photo front page AIt was a journey that began as a child in Bogotá, Colombia, with dreams of utilizing a career path first as a biologist and now as a filmmaker to see the world. In between those two careers, she served as the Head of Production in a company that specialized in new and virtual media marketing for major brands. She is now immersed in several other film projects in both Madrid, Spain, where she now lives and in Colombia, but for the moment she is not at liberty to discuss them.

Each fifty-two minute segment of Atlántico directed by Daniel Landa, who was also the series creator, is filled with culture, adventure, and beauty, as the four person crew filmed in Spain, Portugal and twelve west African countries, which border on the Atlantic Ocean. Other members of the four person team were Tato de la Rosa and Vinsen Modino, the cinematographers.  

“Daniel has devoted his life to being a journalist, director and a writer. He specializes in long expedition series and documentary series.

When Daniel (Landa) came to me he was looking for a way to make his product a little more modern within an internet and digital context. We tried to expand the narrative and we decided on a lot of things for social media. We found our principal sponsor Volvo who gave us two cars for the expedition.

It was very interesting to work with Volvo, because the first thing they told us was we are not a 4 x 4 adventure brand. We are not one of those brands that people use to cross Africa, but we do share the spirit, values, and the principles of the series. That is a whole other

It was very interesting to work with Volvo, because the first thing they told us was we are not a 4 x 4 adventure brand. We are not one of those brands that people use to cross Africa, but we do share the spirit, values, and the principles of the series. That is a whole other conversation.

The film crew began its eight month expedition in northwest Spain in the autonomous region of Galicia and wound its way to the El Rocío pilgrimage in Andalusia, before heading to Portugal.

“For the second chapter we traveled, and we traveled all of Portugal, including the Azores Islands, and the third chapter was the Canary Islands (part of Spain) and then in the fourth chapter we entered Africa and it was the first part of Morocco and we continued Morocco in the next chapter.

The director had the route planned, but we also added content that we found along the way. There were things that we could only do when we were there. We had worked for a very long time on the pre-production of the stories, but also our strategy was to get into the territories and very quickly find the best stories in each of the places that we visited. We had a very specific route, but when we got to those places Read More

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Lara Celenza

Lara Celenza photo by Anya Shvetsova front pageIt would be easy to lose track of how many prestigious universities and how many countries film producer, screenwriter and director Lara Celenza has studied in. She has studied in Bologna, Italy, at Cambridge University in England, in Moscow and in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Lara Celenza, chronicles her travels, “I studied everywhere. I did my bachelor’s degree in Bologna, which was already very different from where I grew up, because Italy, as a country is very culturally diverse. I grew up in the south-central part of the country and then I moved to Bologna, which is a sophisticated, university city. It was much bigger than my hometown, but not like a big city. It was kind of a mid-size city.

I experienced the first culture shock of my life there. It was more of an intellectual type of environment, where everybody was sitting down, drinking wine, and discussing literature and movies. It was very inspiring, but at the same time, at the beginning I felt very intimidated (she laughs lightly). It was also kind of wild with the partying. I wasn’t used to having all of these students around. My parents were very conservative and strict. When I went to university it was party, after party, after party. I had the chance to meet people from all over the country and some people from other countries.

I did the Erasmus programme in London, at UCL (University College London), which is quite a prestigious school.

I also studied in two different universities in Russia, one in Moscow and one in St. Petersburg. Then I went to Cambridge where I did my Master of Philosophy and that shaped me a lot. It gave me a lot of discipline and resilience, because it was a very intense course.

Then I moved back to London where I started working mostly corporate jobs, but I really hated them (she laughs), and I was so miserable that I started saving. I did my directing diploma at the Raindance Film School, which was founded by Elliott Grove, who is also the founder of the Rain Dance Film Festival, which is quite well-known on the indie film circuit.”

 As for what drew her to study in Russia, she explains, “The attraction for me came from my childhood, because I grew up reading Russian fairytales and I had an impression of it as a mystical land of snow and mysterious creatures, folktales, old grandmas, brave warriors and princesses. It left such an impression on me that later in life I fell in love with Russian literature. I read my first Russian novels Crime and Punishment and Anna Karenina. 

When I went to university, I had to choose two languages, so one of the languages was obviously English, because my intent was to travel and to be an international person and the other language was Russian. Because I was struggling with the language, I decided to go for Read More

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