Animal Defender International's Founder
Tim Phillips Talks New Film ‘Lion Ark’

By Amber Topping

Tim Phillips has worked to expose animal cruelty through pictures and film as well as campaign for animal protection issues for many years. He’s the co-founder and Vice President of Animal Defenders International (ADI), and recently he made a documentary about the dangerous trek he made with his wife Jan Creamer (Co-founder and President of ADI) in Bolivia to rescue 25 lions from circuses (after ADI helped the Bolivian government to put a ban on the use of animals in circuses). A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure to talk to the warm, courageous and talented Mr. Tim Phillips about his film Lion Ark, Animal Defender’s International and why it’s important in our society to protect the weakest among us.


To start, can you talk a little bit about your background and how you became involved with both animal protection issues and documentary filmmaking?

Yes. Over 30 years ago, I went to see a film at a movie theater called The Animals Film. And this was 1982—it was a sort of a groundbreaking film in its day. It was the first time a big animal rights film had ever been made. And it got together what happened in factory farming, laboratories and all of these things. And I—it really touched me. It changed my life effectively. I was working finance and in banking and I quit my job. I got myself an SLR camera and began photographing and documenting how animals were treated. And that sort of led one thing to another. My wife and I, Jan and I, founded Animal Defenders International in '90.

And so we began campaigning and working for animals and communicating was also a huge part of that. So we've always made lots of short films and short documentaries with 30 minute ones on rescues and things that we've done. And lots of issue ones and so that sort of led to us then making a feature film. And in a way, the decision to make the film was just led by events. We were doing this huge rescue saving all of these lions in Bolivia.



Our first thought was we should document all of this and then…recover it. And then very quickly we realized here was an opportunity to tell a really serious issue but with a happy ending. That you would not need to dwell on the suffering of these animals because the more you see them living life as they should, the more you realize as the film progresses, just how wrong it was to keep them in those tiny cages and things.

For those who aren't familiar can you describe what Lion Ark is all about?

Okay. Well it's a story of how a ban on animals in circuses was secured in Bolivia. And it began with an undercover investigation. We placed people for two years inside the Bolivian circus industry and then after that time, we released the findings. And it just sent a shock wave through the continent. And Bolivia was the first country to ban the use of all animals in circuses because of horrific scenes that we'd uncovered. The circuses actually simply defied the law. Actually this is a big environmental and animal protection issue in that often well meaning laws are brought in, but the countries where they're most needed often have the least resources to enforce them. And so we said to the Bolivian government, if you pass this law, we will help you enforce it. So a year went by, the circuses did nothing. One circus handed over their animals to us and we relocated them. And the film Lion Ark very much begins at that point, a year later, here we are and we're tracking down the circuses…And in the film we track down 8 circuses—it’s quite thematic as we seize the animals. And we go through various trials and tribulations bringing the focus of the story which is 25 lions rescued from 8 different circuses. And we bring them together, bring them back to health. Then ultimately we fly them to the U.S. and we release them into these fantastic enclosures.


Throughout the documentary as a viewer and I just saw the film—I thought it was great, but you really feel like you’re there for the rescue from beginning to end. So was this purposeful on your part? Did you want to document the whole thing for the audience to really be there?

Yes, we did very much. We filmed it ourselves so it was absolutely sort of a no holds bar in the filming. And so, you know, I said to the cameraman, “You just film everything.” If something goes wrong we film it because ultimately we will get through the problems. And we decided on a few things with the narrative very quickly that we wouldn't do many talking heads, we'd just kind of speak as if the camera was a third person—if the viewer was that person in the camera watching these events.

And everything, all the key stuff in the film happens very, very quickly. So we filmed it with a very light, journalistic crew. People have been very surprised at the production speck of it, that it is a very high quality film. It's filmed on Red. Nevertheless, there weren't loads of people with boom mics walking in on circus seizures; so the cameraman, a few radio mics, and an extra backup small DSLR camera. So, you're very much in the thick of the action and I think that's very rare for people to see; that this is just how tense it can be and this is just how dangerous these animals can be in certain circumstances.


So, what were some of the most intense moments with either the angry circus owners or with the lions for you?

It was always quite tense when you were going in. It was very interesting because some just sort of said, “Okay, here are the lions.” And they'd even just leave the night before. There [were] others who were sort of—it was almost like a battle and the wheels of vehicles were...slashed and there was an awful lot of tension. You know, sort of, step them back and calm them down to actually hand them over with no one getting hurt. Some threatened us.

But the actual moments where I felt most at risk was one night we had a 14 hour journey through these mountain passes with these trucks laden with lions; great big cages up on the vehicles. And these were just like rocky roads hacked into these sheer precipice mountain passes. And I really thought we could die tonight because if we hit the bump, one of these trucks is going to start rolling down into the valley below.


The other thing that was sort of genuinely life risking I felt at the time, but was so kind of wrapped up in it…we were dealing with animals in cages where they were starving, so they were very lethargic. But then we'd get them and we'd begin looking after them, and they get much more energetic. [Laughs] So in a way they became more dangerous in the bit immediately after the rescue or the seizures. And there's a moment where we're trying to get a very, very angry lion—and in many rescues I've never encountered a lion just that angry. And we're trying to, Jan and I, are trying to get him out of this cage. And basically it's just fallen apart. It's rusted. He's been stuck in there 12 years, just as a sideshow. We'd no way of getting him in or out. And so we're having to break in and he is absolutely furious. If he can get at us, he would've killed us. But luckily we get him out safely. And that lion, it, finding peace, this lion called Colo Colo, he goes on to be I think the absolute star of the film…


…he finds peace at the end, and it's just great.


Yeah. It was fun actually seeing all the different lions with their different personalities. And it's just something as a kid (you kind of start to notice as you get older), you don't really think about the animals at the circuses. You just think that they're happy and having fun, and then as soon as you get older you go, wait a second, there's something wrong with that picture.


So, it was kind of nice to be able to see the different personalities with the lions.

I think as well when we try and show things rather than saying, “This is really cruel and it's really cruel because of...” And I think it's small things in the film that make people sort of sit back and go, "Wow that's amazing." And one example is they're in actually tiny cages on the backs of trucks and there's nothing in there for them. And when we first get them we just put some hay in there, some bedding. And you can see a sense of joy and pleasure in these animals as they're rolling about and playing and sort of having fun for the first time. I think that speaks volumes more for what they were lacking than you know, explaining in detail all the things that they need in their life.

What was that moment like when you witnessed the lions actually go out under the sun and play in the grass for the first time in Colorado?

Absolutely fantastic! I go there regularly and it just charges me up to see them free and to have traveled that whole journey with them. And it's a kind of strange moment actually, because it's a little bit bittersweet because you become really, really close to these animals. You look after them every day. And then the relationship changes in that you hand them over to the sanctuary and although we work with them and we continue to fund the care of the lions, it's all so very different than cleaning them out each day and feeding them and everything. So there was a little over hanging saying goodbye, but it was just glorious. When the cubs come out and they just ran and sort of energized the whole group. It was one of the best moments in my life really. And I will—when I deal with things as an animal campaigner that are distressing and frustrating and desperate in dealing with governments and things, those are the things that keep me going.


Yeah. Well it was a beautiful moment to even just watch in the film. So to experience it, I can imagine would be just amazing.

I went to see them—I’m going back there again in about a week and a half, so it's always great going and seeing them after you've seen the film. I went in there last year. It was a particularly favorite visit. We drove a vehicle in because these are very big lion enclosures. And the biggest is 25 acres. So you can drive in there in the summer and it's full of all these beautiful flowers and even not find the lions for like ten minutes. And then they come out and find you; kind of emerge out of the long grass. I'm lucky enough to have seen lions in the wild quite a few times and it's as close as we could have given them to that. And that sort of is what's perfect about the project. We really pushed it. We've put them in the family prides so they live in those groups that they should do naturally. They have the kind of space to express themselves. And we were stuck in the vehicle, and they began chasing it and biting the bumper. It was just fantastic to have that kind of role reversal. Those lions, that we take ‘em from such awful conditions.

So how did Bob Barker actually get involved with the Lion Ark operation, which ultimately led up to him financing the rescue?

Right. Well, we were doing all of these campaigns and we'd secured legislation in Bolivia (and ADI has secured many laws all across the world) and kind of our undercover work is sort of what caught Bob Barker's eye. We’re very evidence based, so he saw we were doing this work getting the footage, getting it out, communicating it to the public, building public support, and then getting laws through. And the law was very close to being passed in Bolivia. So he realized we had this tremendous momentum and Peru was on board. And out of the blue, he called us Jan and I were at home and one night we got this call. And Bob Barker said, “I'm gonna give you some money.” And we thought, “Gosh, wouldn't that be great to have a few thousand dollars?” And he gave us a million dollars.



We knew at that point we would be able to do something on this scale…he gave us subsequent money as the project went on as well. But we specifically set aside a million dollars so that we could go and empty this entire country. And he made it possible because we're a good frugal organization where if people read this and they want to give a donation, we will really work that hard. But once you're working on that scale when you're dealing with lions, horses, monkeys, dogs, all of these other animals we dealt with in Bolivia, it's a huge scale. I mean, the building and the enclosures for the lions alone accounted for almost half of that money. So it's fantastic what he's done…The first time Jan and I had ever met him was getting off that aircraft…


Oh really?

Which you see in the film which is quite remarkable! We had spoken many times and we said, “You've made this incredible thing happen. You must come and see these lions thrive.”


Yeah. It was a great moment too when he turned on his whole voice with the "Lion number 1 come on down," like the game show host, which is great. It gave a nice touch for the film.

And…just that amazing speech in congress that [he gave]. He really is a very remarkable articulate advocate for animals.

Something I loved also about the film was what Jan said about how when we protect the weakest, we all gain. So what are your own thoughts on that idea?

I very much support that view. I mean, that's very much Jan's and my philosophy. Jan says in the film, and it's something we both say, ‘cause we often say, “Why go around bothering these animals when there's so much human suffering in the world?” It's almost as if, you know, if you do this thing, you're kind of trivializing human suffering. And that isn't it at all. If we do protect the weakest and most vulnerable we do all gain. If we say that children shouldn't be abused in our society, then it goes without saying that others in society shouldn't be abused and so on. And the more right that we gain for the most vulnerable then we all get those rights if we ever need them. With animals, if we create a culture in a society in which we are saying suffering is wrong, violence is wrong, and in the context with the film animals just suffering in the name of our entertainment. It's clear that those things shouldn't happen to people either. And I think it if we can build a more caring society, then we will all gain from it. And it is a truism Ghandi said about can judge the morals of a country by the way that they treat animals. You can put insert there, you can judge the morals of a country by the way it treats old people. You can judge a country by the way it treats disabled people or children. And animals. If the minute you go to the areas where society's vulnerable and where people can take advantage of, that is where you learn whether our society's there to just take advantage or there to protect and care.

That's a good point! So, what is the message you really want the audience to take with them after watching Lion Ark?

I think that suffering in the name of entertainment must stop. I think that's a very clear message for it and animals should be treated with respect and kindness. But I think the really big theme of it is that we can all make a difference. And I think one of the things meeting people who've seen the film at these festivals and things—I think it's a very empowering film. It shows that you can have success and make a massive difference on the world sometimes where you least expect it. If you've gone back ten years now or 12 years and said, well, what money would you put on securing laws as strong for animals as this in a country like Bolivia and being so effectively enforced and all those animals being saved, you would get incredible odds. And I think it shows that with the right message that there is a lot of good in human nature. You know, that people in Bolivia responded to this and wanted this thing to happen. There may be a lot of educating to do, but we can all make a difference.


How do you reach people when you're trying to get bills passed and everything about animal abuse when it's easier for people to just look the other way?

I think that's the biggest single problem actually. And I would suspect that any human rights organization would say the same too. It's the inertia and wanting to look the other way is probably our greatest obstacle to achieving anything. So I think you've just got to communicate it in different ways. I think ADI's methodology is to investigate and gather the evidence and present the case. And I think that we have success generally because we get the level of evidence to show this is a very, very serious problem. We don't just film someone who hits an animal and put that on television and go, "do something about this now."


Because people go: “Well, what happened? Who is that person?” So I think key evidence and communicating it. And this film Lion Ark is a part of that tapestry. It may be through news broadcasts, it may be through videos sent to schools, it may be through leaflets and petitions; I think all of these ways of communication are—of course the internet where we can show individual incidents, even sort of two minute videos through 30 minute videos showing things, explaining it, educating...I think education and evidence are the absolute key and then just solid hard work to get the actual legislation through.

So what are some of the various ways someone interested can get involved with the Animal Defender's International?

Well if they look at our website, which is, they can support the film Lion Ark…We're appearing all over the US at the moment at different film festivals. We're in Omaha next week. And we need help [with] those events with selling the t-shirts, getting people to sign up. At the ADI website, which is ad-international, there's a whole range of different ways that people can get involved from volunteering at events and actually doing things through to signing up to petitions and writing to members of congress and even meeting their members of congress and their local representatives, their city representatives.

People do not realize just the power that they have. I mean, bills don't tend to get through governments. They don't represent, certainly not for animals, if they don't represent the will of the people or a very big sector of the community. But they're often driven by very small numbers of people. It makes a huge impact to someone to watch our film, read our literature, and then go on, knock on the door of their local council member and say, “I'm one of your constituents, you can see I'm just an ordinary person from this town (or I'm involved in business here or whatever), and I would like you to help stop this.” That doesn't mean that conversation will instantly lead to something; it is those encounters where people actually get directly engaged that bring about the big changes.

Are there any specific bills that you're working on right now to actually get passed?

People will see on the ADI site that there's various local authorities, city municipalities which are working on legislation, ordinances to ban the use of wild animals in circuses. And later this year, in the coming months we hope, ADI will be working on the reintroduction of the traveling exotic animal protection act which is the congressional legislation that would prevent the use of wild animals in traveling shows through the U.S. And to get through a piece of a legislation like that can take many years. The price is very great ending this sort of suffering forever and you can see that in the film Lion Ark. And if these things can happen in Bolivia and Paraguay and Peru and Great Britain and Austria and Costa Rica and Taiwan, then certainly they can happen here in the U.S.

Yeah, definitely! So do you have any other projects in the works right now? Another documentary that you're thinking about making? Or perhaps another rescue mission?

The really huge project we have on our doorstep is the Peruvian government has asked us to do the same thing as we did in Lion Ark. So we've had our field offices out in Peru tracking down the circuses. Clearly it's gonna be different because they know that we'll be coming this time, so there could be different resistance. One of our senior field officers, Alexis, who appeared in the film, was quite badly beaten up photographing a circus and had his leg broken about six-five months ago.


Oh my goodness...

So we're also talking with the government and finalizing the legal paperwork on that and you know how we would seize the animals where they would be held and in fact, all of these Lion Ark screenings are going towards funding that operation. So anyone who goes and sees a Lion Ark screening and gives a donation or buys one of the T-shirts, well it will help get those animals out of cages in Peru.

Awesome! Before we go, is there anything else that you wanted to add?

I think just to say keep an eye on what we're doing. Lion Ark the movie is on Facebook and ADI, Animal Defender's international are on Facebook. The website for ADI is and the website for Lion Ark is and we've got screenings coming up in all the time. Please watch for it and support the film.

Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.

It was an absolute pleasure.

If you watch one movie trailer this year, watch this one! 


Again, you can learn more about Animal Defenders International at and more about Lion Ark at

To learn more about Amber Topping, check out her vintage inspired (yet modern) media blogzine:

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City of Lost Children:
Cambodia's Phymean Noun

By Mende Smith

Phnom Pehn, Cambodia has been called the city of lost children. Street gangs of dirty-faced kids run in and out of open markets, topple garbage cans, and sort waist-deep through the sea of trash at the edge of the industrial district looking for marketable rubbish and scraps of food for their families. Most work in the dumpsite seven days a week, from dawn until dusk. Many lose their lives to disease before the age of 13. One woman worked tirelessly with the people in the community to provide hope for these children and their families with education—and also enough rice to feed their families.


Phymean Noun ’s unique story is one of hope and absolution. In 2002, Noun founded the People Improvement Organization (PIO) and made it possible to pull street kids from gloom to schoolroom. Building a school for the children at the dumpsite itself—raising hope where there was nothing but sadness and dirt and shame. In her interview with Reap, she talks of her work and the ongoing mission to change the future of her native Cambodia by empowering the underlings and educating them free of charge through the twelve-years of her program. She has been a CNN hero in 2008, award-winning visionary, and organizer.


Traveling around the globe to seek funding opportunities for her mission, she has been welcomed with open arms. Of her journey, Noun says, she deplores a viewpoint of hope and determination that sucks in the world community and reminds us that all of these children are in fact, our children—in her country, it is most difficult for orphaned girls who are more likely to fall prey to human trafficking and housekeeping than education.

JWI visit SMC Oct13

“In Cambodian culture, they depend on the girls to stay home and have children and serve the family,” Noun says. “There are more people who believe there is no place in the school for a girl. Not like in America or in Canada, in Cambodia girls are second-class and have nothing to give their communities, people say. It is our mission to work hard for the girls, there are so many.”

So many lives can be saved through comprehensive education, basic hygiene, trust, and love. Noun says. “Nobody was doing anything for these kids, they were looking the other way, and so I had to do this for them, because it helps everyone else in the city too.”


Noun has been working with the children of PIO since 2002. The PIO has outreach centers at the city dumpsite, in the lowest areas of Phnom Penh and on the outskirts of the city where the people from the slums are relocated as the city is redeveloped. The program has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Education and also with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and work closely with social services now in Cambodia to support the governments’ education goals.


“We also run training for girls in dressmaking, cookery, and beauty and hairdressing at our training center in the city,” Noun says. “Many of these girls develop the workplace skills they need to feed themselves and to work off of the streets.”

Noun herself was orphaned at 15. She had already lost most of her family during the Cambodian genocide of the dictator Pol Pot. After so many years of unrest and the threat of war, her sister traveled to Thailand looking for a better life leaving her infant daughter in their mother’s care. Soon after, their mother died of cancer and Noun was left alone to survive and care for her infant niece. This is why Noun has a no-fail attitude and can relate so well with the children in her program.


Noun is delighted to give the opportunity to the orphaned children that she never had as a child of 15. Though bittersweet, her own search for work, education, and survival gave her the chops to take on the massive social challenge of living in a war torn country. Through education and training, the PIO equips the children and young people with the skills they need to access regular jobs and become self-supporting, improving their quality of life and that of their families.

Noun has been celebrated as a visionary in Cambodia. Having worked her way through school, earned a college degree and found a good job without the help of an organization like the PIO. The day she quit her job was also the day she realized that someone had to fight for the rights of the children living year after year in poverty.


“I could not take the time I needed to help all of the kids,” Noun says. “So I had money saved and I quit my job and started working to find the help for all of the children who were locked out of school, unable to afford to pay for school. We started with them.”

With Noun’s careful assistance, a growing number of schools and shelters offer alternative lives for children living and working at the filthy and dangerous trash dumps around the industrial city of Phnom Penh.

The PIO is aligned to the United Nations Millennium Development goals, which aim to ‘End Poverty.’ This work actively underpins the achievement of these goals and provides hope to a growing population of children in need. This is a locally based organization; run solely by Cambodians for Cambodians.


“We work hard to develop our workforce and empower the local people to become the leaders of the future, these children are our future in Cambodia.”

Today, Noun travels to and from her native country many times each year. When she is touring on fund-raising expeditions here in the states, she lives and writes at her home in Toronto, Canada. Hundreds of phone conferences, phone calls, and meetings fill up her schedule, which, she happily tasks as her life’s work and mission.Noun and her organization serve over 1,000 children a day through programs that include schooling, nutrition, healthcare, non-formal education and vocational training. Her work continues to inspire us every day.

“So long as people can see that there are so many children who need the chance to be a success, this school will keep on growing. I am blessed everyday with the work I do in my country and more people are helping us to make life better for the children in Cambodia.”

You can learn more about Phymean Noun and the People Improvement Organization here:

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Production Designer:
Martin Whist

By Tina Valin

Martin Whist has the best plan B story I’ve ever heard. After obtaining his Masters at Claremont Graduate University studying painting and sculpture, he started his fine art career showing his painting in galleries; but like many artists and creatives, he found he needed to find a way to make ends meet.  Fine art wasn’t paying the bills.  Already in the LA area, Whist recognized that movies need props, and he had the sculpting and construction experience necessary to build those props.  He picked up a telephone book, called a set shop in East LA and landed a job sweeping floors.  Eventually, they handed him a few projects to work on.


Whereas the normal plan B story involves settling for that boring desk job or becoming a teacher, Whist’s plan B began his slow and steady climb up the Hollywood ladder to his current position as Production Designer on major Hollywood Blockbusters.  “Super 8,” “Cabin in the Woods,” “Warm Bodies,” “Cloverfield,” and this year’s “Robocop” reboot are just a few of the films that have benefited from Whist’s creativity and imagination.


In case you’re not familiar with what a Production Designer does, Martin Whist has a great explanation.  If you take all the actors in a film that you see on screen, have them drop all their props and walk off set, what’s left is his domain. The props, the sets, the ‘look’, the visual elements of the story; these are all the result of the Production Designer and his team’s efforts to manifest the Director’s vision of the script.  If you talk to Whist for only a few minutes, it’s quickly apparent that he loves his job.

Whist’s body of work proves that he’s also pretty darn good at what he does and that he’s not afraid to take risks.  Once news of the reboot of “Robocop” hit the internet, a certain amount of backlash was expected.  For Whist and those involved, there was the realization that by just agreeing to do the film they had already failed in the eyes of critics and skeptics who wondered why anyone would bother rebooting the much loved original.  With that, they were free to just get to work and do their job.  I expressed my pleasantly surprised enjoyment of the film.  With a chuckle, Whist agreed that’s the response he’s been receiving the most.  Not bad for a film that  has made $220 million at the box office.

Whist’s success has allowed him to be more selective with his projects, and I wondered if there was a particular genre he favored.  I expected his answer to include any of the high-concept genres, Sci-Fi or Horror; genres he’s worked in before that allow for a lot of innovative and original design opportunities.  Although relishing the opportunity to anticipate and manifest sci-fi and technological trends in a film like “Robocop,” he derives equal satisfaction from creating more practical and reality-defined worlds: taking us back to the 1980s in “Super 8,” for example.  Each and every film offers it’s own original challenges and set of rules regardless of genre.  For Whist, it’s more about trying something new.  He’s never worked on a period piece and that would be a new challenge he’d like to tackle.


As a result of his continued success, Whist is often asked for advice from those interesting in pursuing his line of work and admits that it’s a tricky question to answer.  Not a lot of Production Designers come from laborer’s background as he did.  Many start off in architecture and set design or begin as illustrators.  Production Designers come from a whole myriad of backgrounds following a number of different routes to the role.  First and foremost he recommends finding a film school with an excellent production design program.  Beyond that, it’s a matter of diving in and learning as much as possible about all aspects of making a film.  Designing is only the first task of ensuring that your design is made through to completion and shot on budget.  Of course, hard work is a large part of the equation as well as the willingness to let the business take you where it takes you.

Martin_Whist.jpgClosing out our conversation in the midst of a busy day on his next film, “Night at the Museum 3”, I asked if there were any specific phases of the process he relished the most.  Laughing, he said, “I love when we strike a set. When the bulldozers come in.  It’s like Picasso, the creator/destroyer.  A huge part of it is destruction.”  He expounded saying that symbolically the bulldozers signify completion for his part of the process.  He loves every part of the process from the initial spark of the idea to the illustrations and consulting with the director through to the physical construction of the sets; and that once the actors take their places and the scene is shot, the whole process is nothing short of amazing.

I’m sure we’ll continue to see amazing work from Martin Whist starting with “Night at the Museum 3” and beyond.  Accompanying the creativity and skill that’s allowed him to reach this high level of success, Whist is a warm and appreciative man with whom anyone would be fortunate to collaborate.  And yes, he still keeps his private art work going, bringing his work with him as he travels.  He’s working in a digital format more and more for convenience and hopes to start showing his work again sometime soon.

For more about Nathan Edmondson check out or follow him on twitter @edmondsonnathan

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The Face of Film Music
Marcelo Zarvos

By Mary Carreon

Zarvos-151.jpg“I always kept an eye out for the film thing, and I had faith it was going to find me, which it did.” Beginning his music career at 10 years old, Marcelo Zarvos has become a critically acclaimed composer in multiple mediums. As his talent extends from composing concert, theatre and dance music to scoring films, the Brazilian composer has a style that emphasizes the power and beauty of the musician.

Leaving Brazil at 18 years old to study music in the U.S., Zarvos didn’t do anything with film until he’d lived in America for 10 years, ironically. But, his education at California State of the Arts broadened his knowledge in terms of music and the performing arts. “I studied classical music, jazz and a lot of world music,” said Zarvos. “[Cal Arts] had a fantastic program that had Japanese music, African music and Indian music, so it was a very interesting place.” He also invested a good amount of time learning about animation, visual arts, dance, writing music and playing jazz during his time at Cal Arts.

Immediately out of school, he got a record deal with a Japanese label and travelled to Japan to play his music. After playing in Japan, Zarvos moved to New York City, where good timing and fate provided him with opportunity. “A director heard me performing and asked me to write music for his short film,” Zarvos said. “It was a Brazilian film called A Soccer Story… and went on to be nominated for an Academy Award.” It was after scoring this short film that Zarvos began reaping the rewards of his dedication to music.

Zarvos’ latest score for the film, The Face of Love, was digitally released in the U.S on March 11, 2014 via Varèse Sarabande Records. The soundtrack has strong themes, heavy strings and piano, creating a timeless sound. “In many ways it’s a very old school film and score,” said Zarvos.

The score emanates with emotion and reflects the big orchestral sounds popular to older, classic films. “It is a very psychological love story—you don’t really know what’s going on in [Nikki, the leading actress’] head… but the music really plays to her anxiety and longing of her lost love.” While still maintaining a crisp, modern sound, the orchestra strategically hits the emotional, romantic and suspenseful elements of the story.Marcelo_Zarvos.png

The score was a collaborative effort between Zarvos and director, Arie Posen. According to Zarvos, the two had a blast creating the soundtrack. “It was a very sophisticated way of scoring and interacting with a director,” Zarvos said. “We had a really good time.”

The soundtrack was generated separately from the film, allowing for a more natural creation of music. “I had written a bunch of music before going to [Posen’s] house to play everything I had for him on his piano. As I played he would say, ‘ok I like that one, or no I don’t like that’...” Keeping in mind iconic films and directors, Zarvos and Posen looked to the mid-20th century for inspiration. “We talked a lot about Hitchcock throughout the process,” Zarvos said. “The score has that kind of thriller aspect to it.”


Another additional project Zarvos is working on is a score for the movie, The Humbling, based on the Phillip Rock novel. The movie, starring Al Pacino and Greta Gerwig, is another dark love story focusing on the blurred lines between reality and the imagination. In April, additionally, Zarvos will begin to work on the music for the second season of the Showtime series, Ray Donovan.

Regardless of what genre of music he’s composing, Zarvos’ method of music composition focuses on musicianship—a concept that’s been lost in modern music and society. Despite experiencing multi-genre success, Zarvos’ humble nature and genuine love for music will continue to breed prosperity.

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Movies Coming Out This Spring, 2015

This month REAP is again featuring trailers of some interesting films that are scheduled to be released this spring. Take a look and mark your calendar with the release date

Effie Gray

A look at the mysterious relationship between Victorian art critic John Ruskin and his teenage bride Effie Gray. Directed by Richard Laxton, Cast includes Claudia Cardinale, Dakota Fanning, Emma Thompson and Derek Jacobi. Release April 3rd.

Racing Extinction

Oscar-winning director Louis Psihoyos is at it again. Back in 2009, he scooped up the Academy Award for Best Documentary for The Cove, a harrowing look at dolphin hunting in Japan. Racing Extinction takes a similar look at wildlife abuse, with Psihoyos and his team infiltrating black markets dealing with endangered species. Release HBO

Child 44

Set in Stalin-era Soviet Union, a disgraced MGB agent is dispatched to investigate a series of child murders—a case that begins to connect with the very top of party leadership.
Directed by Daniel Espinosa. Cast includes: Dev Patel, Agniezka Grochowska, Anna Rust, Charles Dance, Gary Oldman. Release Apirl 17th

She's Funny That Way

Young Hollywood starlet Isabella Patterson recalls how the actions of a charming Broadway director, Arnold Albertson changed her life forever. As told to a reporter in a not-so-reliable recollection of events, the Brooklyn-born former escort reminisces about how a rendezvous with the director turned into a larger-than-expected sum of money and an offer she couldn’t refuse. Director Peter Bogdanovich. Cast includes: Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Jennifer Anniston, Colleen Camp, Cybill Shepherd, Debi Mazer. Release May 1st


Bound by a shared destiny, a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor jaded by disillusionment embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory as “Tomorrowland.” Directed by Brad Bird. Cast includes Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy. Release May 22


Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a geek, carefully surviving life in The Bottoms, a tough neighborhood in Inglewood, CA filled with gangsters and drugs dealers, while juggling his senior year of college applications, interviews and the SAT. His dream is to attend Harvard. A chance invitation to a big underground party leads Malcolm and his friends into a gritty adventure filed with offbeat characters and bad choices. If Malcolm can persevere, he'll go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself. Directed by Rick Famuyiwa Cast Includes Allen Maldonado, Amin Joseph, Anthony Quinonez, Blake Anderson. Release June 12th

In What Happened Miss Simone?

Documentary directed by Academy Nominated filmmaker, Liz Garbus, the film chronicles Nina Simone’s Journey from Child Piano Prodigy to Iconic Musician and Passionate Activist, Told in Her Own Words. Classically trained pianist, black power icon and legendary recording artist, Nina Simone lived a life of brutal honesty, musical genius, and tortured melancholy. In the upcoming Netflix original documentary, Academy Award® nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus interweaves never-before-heard recordings and rare archival footage together with Nina’'s most memorable songs, creating an unforgettable portrait of one of the least understood, yet most beloved artists of our time. Release Netflix.

The Salt of the Earth

Celebrated auteur Wim Wenders co-directed this cinematically exquisite documentary about photographer Sebastian Salgado. Also co-directed by Salgado's son, Juliano, the film takes a chronological look at Salgado's career and rise as a master of black and white photography. The doc received a standing ovation at Cannes and went on to win Un Certain Regard’s Special Prize at the festival. It's also on the shortlist for the 2015 Academy Awards' Best Documentary category. Release March 27.


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