A bevy of stars descended upon Beverly Hill’s high-end Tatel restaurant for the ILBE Gala on a lively Thursday night: organized by Dynamita Productions in association with Iervolino and Lady Bacardi Entertainment, the party celebrated the newly released movies The Ritual Killer, the Oscar-nominated Tell It Like a Woman, and Lamborghini: The Man Behind The Legend.
Actors and actresses from the films as well as international superstars — including Esha Gupta (Miss India
International title of 2007), Vernon Davis (The Ritual Killer), Bernard Hiller (world-renowned acting coach), and Julia Creus (Merli on Netflix) — lined the red carpet and The Nerds of Color had the privilege of talking with them about everything from Oscar Season, trends in foreign films, switching careers and, of course, all things behind the scenes of the ILBE production The Ritual Killer.
Reflecting on his relationship with Ana Menendez, the head of Dynamita Productions, and how the night’s festivities came together, actor Vernon Davis explained that it was all about cultivating the relationship during his casting as Randoku in The Ritual Killer and staying in touch after that. “We were always talking and coming up with ideas,” Davis explained. “We needed to have a premiere and a party! So I said ‘okay, let me go ahead and talk to some of my sponsors and see if they wanna jump on board… Bada bing bada boom.”
“Well, I never imaged myself playing a killer in general,” Davis said about playing Randoku in the ILBE feature film. “I like to think of myself as a nice guy! So trying to find a way to tap into the character and give him a backstory… and make sure he could come out really — he’s real. To say ‘hey, what exactly is there from my past experiences that I can use now to really have something to go after?’ So I figured it out.”
On figuring out that exact approach, Davis reflected: “Once you understand what your intentions are and you’re full, like to the point where it’s in your system, it’s in your face, it’s in everything that you do — so when I put the garments on of that character, I wanna feel that. I wanna feel like I’m someone totally different than my regular self.”
When asked about crossing industries as well as genres (before acting, Davis was a professional NFL football player for the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, and Washington Commanders), Davis shrugged with pride. “I think as long as you’re aligned in the right way — meaning what’s your reason for wanting to transition to a certain thing? Like what’s my reason for becoming an actor? It’s gonna be totally different for someone else, right? But if it’s aligned the right way, you’re definitely gonna have success, especially if you put the work in.”
Taking the red carpet were also a number of diverse international actors, investors and producers including Deel Account Executive Rochelle Shvarts, Romanian actress/model Madalina Ghenea, and Miss India 2007 Esha Gupta — who spoke to us about her transition from model to actress and the burgeoning landscape of Indian cinema. How does she feel like things are going?
“What I love about being an actor, and now I’ve gotta speak about the country right now, because I think it’s become so global,” Gupta replied, “There was earlier a time when you, you know, you just wanted to realize ‘Oh my god, you’re in LA…’ But I think the country is getting more accepting, because I think the audience is getting more accepting and it’s just the most beautiful time to be in this industry, whether it’s being an actor or a promoter because it’s just all around!”
“The only thing I don’t like to play is ‘damsel-in-distress,’” Gupta said when asked about what she looks for in a role. “Which, in India, we still do a lot of it! The only reason, because — I’m a feminist too — if I get a man who would lead me well? I’ll let you lead me… But I also feel like, as women, you don’t have to show as ‘weak.’ So that’s something I really focus on.”
On her Oscar favorites, Gupta gave a shoutout to the breakthrough Indian film RRR, but also the domestic favorite, Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick. “I remember when I was really young, and I saw the first Top Gun that came and I was like ‘Oh wow, what a movie!’” She smiled a little wider when she recalled “I saw [Top Gun: Maverick] and it just reminded me of my childhood, when I wasn’t allowed to go in the cinema and I was young and there was kissing in it. And now that I saw this movie, it’s taking me back to that and it’s a better movie… this year I’m wishing both of them [Maverick and RRR] good luck.”
And what’s next for the model turned actress?
“They’re all Indian, but there’s sci-fi and drama… In India, it’s not really common to do sci-fi, so it’s a big risk that I’m taking.” Gupta continued with confidence “Listen, either it goes there or there [pointing up and down], but guess what? If I don’t take a risk, who’s gonna lead the way? So I’m gonna do that!”
As the outdoor event began to cool off and the stars began to trickle into the dining area, we were able to speak with the Woman of the Hour herself, Ana Menendez of Dynamita Productions, who was in the highest of spirits, to talk about the mission statement of her company and what being a force in the industry means to her.
“I that feel, especially nowadays, there is a need for creativity and a need for quality and a need for unity, you know? Like we all need to accept our differences and be unique,” Menendez elaborated. “I am actually very grateful, because I am from the south of Spain; I arrived here in this town 15 years ago with two suitcases — bigger than me — that’s not very difficult, because I’m a Minion,” she joked. “When you have a dream and you put in all the hard work… there’s nothing ‘impossible’ in getting to what you want.”
About the makings of the night, Menendez revealed that preparations for the gala began just 12 days before: “You know, it’s so funny, I love that you asked this question; it all came together very randomly… And we said ‘okay! They’re expecting a party, let’s throw a party!’”
“I am selective. I am very selective,” she said about her process of judging what projects to take, “I am an action-adventure kind of girl. I mean, drama, I can do drama, but life is very dramatic already! We need to do like action-adventure, I love car chases, you know? Things like that. And then I love a good comedy. So all of that together, I feel like is very important to me.”
So what’s next on the horizon for Dynamita Productions?
“You know, the mission statement of my production company is actually — like my goal is to unite creatives from all over the planet and change the world through art!”