We may not know what happens after we die, but a gripping new sci-fi short explores one intriguing possibility: In the future, our bodies are used as energy, and our minds are uploaded to the Internet. But what happens when someone longs for their former connection to the outside world? That's how The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker begins, and from there, it takes off running.


Liam Dow, The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker


The film's opening sequence introduces us to the Gray Hat Hacker himself, played by the film's creator and co-writer, Liam Dow. Gray Hat explains that when he died, his memories and connection to the outside world were lost. From there, he was recruited into an exclusive organization, a band of hackers serving to protect the various realms of the Internet. When his recruiter Marina (Leslie Stratton) and his mentor Zetronius (LeRoyal Tutt) wind up missing, Gray Hat sets off on a mission to find them. Joined by an AI device named Petri, voiced by the film's director, writer, and editor, Beau Garner, Gray Hat embarks across a vast, deserted wilderness, battling life-threatening conditions along the way. Appearing at the height of conflict later on are villains Gaunt and Virus, played by Sharard Baker and Brennan Mejia.


The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker


The futuristic reality this short depicts is somewhat reminiscent of a Black Mirror episode, but with its own unique twist. It's chock full of action-packed sequences skillfully coordinated by Tutt, with some of the more complicated moves executed by stunt double Joey Wilson. It also features a top-notch crew, which no project is complete without. Marco Bottiglieri was the production's director of photography, with entertaining visual effects by Abu Saleh Badhon, and color correcting by Peter Schwartz and Peter Fabiny. Despic Zeljko provided great sound design, and Nick Carignan was the production sound mixer. Costume designer Madison Wright put a creative, Dr. Who-like spin on Gray Hat's costume, while the rest of the cast wore hooded robes or subtle attire with pops of futuristic elements. The costumes were further enhanced by makeup artist Kendall Norton.


Liam Dow and Leslie Stratton, The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker


As far as this critic is concerned, The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker is a success. In just twelve and a half minutes, a compelling and original story is told, and it manages to maintain the complexity sci-fi commands without overwhelming the viewer. But with such a skilled group of actors working alongside each other, and a crew that spent hours of time and effort getting every element right, it's no surprise. The short, produced by Clear Blue 22 and K.O. Pow Productions, is already making waves at film festivals. At the Hollywood Gold Awards this year, the short won seven awards, including Gold Awards for Sci-Fi, Best Original Story, and Best Visual Effects, and Silver Awards for Best Production Design, Best Producer, Best Editing, and Best Sound Design. At the Vegas Film Festival, the short also earned awards for Best Sci-Fi, Best 1st Time Director, and Best Young Actor.


Garner, who said he spent hours in post production making sure the short came to life, is thrilled at the response it's getting from audiences and critics alike.


"I speak on behalf of the entire cast and crew by saying we are incredibly honored that all of our hard work is being received so well," he said. "This project was a labor of love for me."


When asked if there are any more festivals the cast and crew are looking forward to, Garner said yes.


"We're looking forward to potentially winning more awards and hopefully finding someone to finance this as a full feature film."


For more updates on The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker, follow @kopowfilms on Twitter and Instagram.

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Updated: Nov 17, 2020

NORTHRIDGE, CA - Students at California State University, Northridge are passionate about representation. LGBTQ stories are the backbone of a queer theatre class that meets every Thursday on campus. For transgendered students in particular, they believe representation on both the stage and screen is vital.

Credit, Natalia Vivino


Brittany Moncourtois, a student in the class, said she wishes there were more opportunities for transgendered actors.


"I want to see more trans inclusivity, including trans women of color, and I want to see us playing cis roles," she said.


"Cis" is short for "cisgendered". It's a term used to describe someone who identifies as the sex they were assigned at birth. The definition doesn't cover gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how an individual is perceived in daily life.


Trans Student Educational Resources defines transgender as a term that describes an individual who doesn't exclusively identify as their assigned sex. Essentially, it's the opposite of cisgendered.


In mainstream material, A-list cisgendered actors still play trans characters. According to GLAAD, only about 6 percent of characters in primetime programming identified as LGBTQ in 2017.


CSUN's Pride Center Coordinator Sarina Loeb said when it comes to the media, positive and accurate representation is important.


"I can’t speak for the entire CSUN LGBTQ community, but in my experience, when I see my identity and experiences of LGBTQ people reflected in media, I feel validated and seen," she said.


But it isn't just CSUN students who desire a shift in representation. Moorpark College student Nicole Castro is also in support of transgendered actors having more opportunity. She specifically wishes to see more trans characters at the center of upcoming films and stage productions.


Castro said it's hard for transgendered actors to find opportunities. This is because A-list, cisgendered actors are filling those spots instead. In mainstream material, A-list cisgendered actors still play trans characters. According to GLAAD, only about 6 percent of characters in primetime programming identified as LGBTQ in 2017. Eddie Redmayne, Jared Leto, Hilary Swank, and Jeffrey Tambor are all cisgendered actors who've won awards for playing trans roles. And that's just a small handful of several examples in out there.


"You're not going to have any A-list trans actors if you don't give trans people any roles in general," Castro said.


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Professor Hillary Miller teaches CSUN's queer theatre class. She said her students have addressed the issue of trans representation before. She also said that mainstream material has yet to dive deeper. However, her thoughts for the future remain positive. She believes the situation will improve in time.


"If we're just talking about the stories getting out there and the pieces getting out there, then I do think that it's changing," she said.


The road to representation isn't without its challenges, but with passion and persistence, the performing arts community has the potential to create positive change.


Credit, The Guardian


AUDIO: CSUN Students Define Transgender


By Natalia Vivino


With Contributions by, Trans Student Educational Resources, GLAAD, ScreenCrush

Photo Credit, Natalia Vivino

Video Credit, The Guardian


EDUCATE YOURSELF:

12 Trans Actors Who Played Transgender Roles

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The History of Cis Actors Playing Trans Roles Isn't Pretty

What Trans Folks Think About Trans Representation in Film and TV

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8 Stats That Prove Why Transgender Day of Visibility Is so Crucial

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Transgendered: Has Society Gone Too Far?

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The Real Gender Trouble

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NORTHRIDGE, CA - Last month is was announced that Broadway's upcoming production of To Kill A Mockingbird was being sued by Harper Lee's estate. It's been a constant battle for producer Scott Rudin. He's still fighting to keep the anticipated adaptation alive before its December debut. He mentioned holding a staged performance of the play in court to prove that the script doesn't stray from the novel. He's also demanding $10 million from Lee's estate.

Credit, Steve Granitz/WireImage


Rudin said that due to the recent conflict, investors are becoming less interested in funding the play. He blamed it on the estate's continued efforts to intervene. It all began when Lee's estate executor, Tonja B. Carter, said that the script wasn't similar enough to the novel.


Before her death in 2016, Lee granted Rudin and playwright Aaron Sorkin permission to create an adaptation of her novel for Broadway. The novel already has a play in existence (and several community and regional theatres have produced it), but never once has there been a version on Broadway. It's become a highly anticipated production, with Jeff Daniels starring as Atticus Finch, and Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher directing. But with Carter stepping in and claiming the script strays too far from the novel, the production's dreams of Broadway may come to a bitter end.


In response to Carter's original lawsuit filed last month, Rudin's production company (called Rudinplay) fired back by questioning her motives. Rudin also said that his agreement with Lee never included the option for her to edit or approve the actual script, let alone allow Carter to do the same.


Carter said that as protector of Lee's estate, she felt it was her duty to read through the script and address any problems. She said there are several moments throughout the play, especially when it comes to the main character Atticus Finch, where their behaviors and dialogue aren't similar to the novel.

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In response to Carter's statement, Rudin accused her of trying to stop the play from opening.

He's considering cancelling the Broadway production before its opening night. However, his plan to stage a performance in court is still being considered. If a jury can confirm that the play and the novel complement each other, perhaps this production will get the run it deserves.

Credit, American Theatre Wing


By Natalia Vivino


With Contributions by, The New York Times

Photo Credit, Steve Granitz/WireImage

Video Credit, American Theatre Wing


EDUCATE YOURSELF

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Why Is To Kill a Mockingbird so Popular?

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To Kill a Mockingbird Is Overrated

Fans of To Kill a Mockingbird Need to Grow Up

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