The Casting Game (feature film) by Joy Hopwood

The Casting Game is an ensemble piece that highlights the journeys of a group of unconventional actors trying to make it big in Sydney, an Asian-Australian family trying to make a visiting relative feel at home with Might- T- mite and meat pies, and a seemingly ill-fated love.

Gary is a 35-year-old brick layer who has had no luck in love. On a night out with his high school mates – Lynn, Indigo, and Luke – he ends up in a bet to see if he can land a date with the next woman he sees. Along comes Sarah, a beautiful radio producer who is in a wheelchair.

 

In a Love Actually meets Muriel’s Wedding in a modern day twist, this film explores what it means to find happiness and joy in a diverse, dynamic world, in a beautifully fun and meaningful way.

An Aussie story full of heart and triumph amongst a diverse group of friends, The Casting Game is a relatable story that tugs at our heartstrings while making us laugh. It reminds us that we can find belonging in unexpected places.

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Writer / producer, Joy Hopwood, wrote the screenplay just under two weeks after watching a film last September in 2016 and was inspired to write something just as good with diversity at the forefront!

“In our current modern society, I feel that it’s driven by ego, self importance and over evaluation, this film takes us on a journey and reminds us, in a subtle way, what it’s like to step in other people’s shoes from all walks of life and to be mindful of others. I feel that’s what our society is missing – mindfulness and humility. My aim is to entertain people yet bringing that sense of community back into our society, which I feel is desperately missing,” says Joy.

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Leading lady, Stacey Copas says, “when Joy asked me to act in her film at our first meeting together I couldn’t believe what an amazing an opportunity it was and I pretty much jumped at the opportunity right away! I’m passionate about everyone getting an equal opportunity and I’m so inspired by Joy and the whole team who have poured blood, sweat and tears into getting the project off the ground. Our camaraderie and joint purpose on set can definitely been seen in the final edit. I’m really proud of the Casting Game; its beautifully told story which everyone will be able to relate to.”

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Supporting actress Erica Long says, “During my script read, I found that with every page I turned, I became more and more immersed in the characters’ lives. The characters are all so different (in terms of their personality, ethnicity and personal background) and I loved reading about how they interacted with each other – it’s not everyday that you read a script, which reflects our multicultural society. There’s also so much warmth and hilarity in the script – I knew instantly that I wanted to be a part of the transformation from paper to screen. Pearl Tan (director) and Joy Hopwood (producer, writer and actor) are champions of diversity in this country and you really see this come across in The Casting Game. Joy specifically incorporated into her script a group of friends from different ethnic backgrounds, an intelligent and beautiful woman with a mobility disability, 2 Australian-Chinese sisters (who are more Aussie than Chinese!) and their long lost sister from China. It’s quite a feat! The different characters’ backgrounds of course contribute to the story but the characters are not reduced to a stereotype (e.g. your Asian nerd). During rehearsals we created each character’s own backstory and Joy was happy to make our suggested script changes to ensure that we were each happy with the complexity of our characters. When you watch the film, you will see that Joy has weaved a series of funny and nuanced stories together into a coherent whole and, simply put, you will forget about “diversity” as such – the end result of Joy’s hard work is that you just focus on how the characters interact with each other.”

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When asked, “Why did you want to act in The Casting Game?” Supporting actor Nicholas Brown says, “I’ve been a fan of Joy Hopwood and Pearl Tan for a long time. I met Joy several years ago when we both made speeches for the Asian Alliance for parliament We both found a synergy because of our experiences as non Caucasian actors in Australia. Pearl and I have written and worked together for several years. I’m inspired by both of these amazing women, their advocacy and their creativity. Besides fluffing I’d do anything on film for them! Plus it’s rare to see a cast so diverse in Aussie cinema. The fact that there’s no major reference to anyone’s ethnicity is refreshing. The cast are all Australian who just happen to be from diverse backgrounds. My character is a brickie! I love that. The actors have been cast against type and this is exciting and rare.”

The Casting Game, written & produced by Joy Hopwood (Joy House Productions) and produced by Priya Roy (Vissi D’Arte Films) and directed by Pearl Tan (Pearly Productions) premieres at the annual Joy House Film Festival September 10th, 2017. 4.30pm at Hoyts https://Joyhousefilmfestival.eventbrite.com.au

 

 

 

Interview with Stacey Copas about her new film-The Casting Game & diversity

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How did your acting career begin?

I’m currently in the midst of my first acting gig – a totally newbie to the world of acting. I’m playing the role of Sarah in the feature film “The Casting Game”. I was initially approached to consider the role via a LinkedIn message which was totally unexpected.

Who were your role models growing up?

As a young person I was mostly drawn to athletes and musicians – neither of which I actually aspired to be. There certainly weren’t any diverse role models who represented my own diversity in any area of public life I was aware of.

Do you think there are enough diverse representations on TV / Film?

There is a lack of diversity in TV and film. Who we see on screens does not represent who we see in the community in our daily life. I feel having roles written that are specifically for diverse characters will help to improve this. Also having viewers support TV and film with diverse characters/casting and demand more diversity will help.

What are you currently working on?

Currently preparing for the feature film “The Casting Game” in which I play the lead role of Sarah. It is exciting to be part of a project that has a very diverse cast and crew. As a person who uses a wheelchair it is fabulous to be cast in the role as the majority of characters with disability in TV and film are played by actors without disability.

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What more do you want to achieve in your career?

Being such early days, I’m looking forward to exploring a variety of roles that will challenge me and tell great stories.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years time and why?

In 10 years time I would like to be continuing to stretch my comfort zones in all areas of life. By being the best person, speaker, athlete – and actor I can be I hope to inspire others to aim higher and dream bigger and to be the person with a disability with a strong public profile who can be the role model that I lacked as a young person.

Interview with Australian actress Belinda Jombwe

Belinda Jombwe studied at NIDA and is known for her outstanding theatre work in Black Jesus (Bakehouse Theatre) as Eunice Ncube, Beth in Samson (Belvoir) and Winnie in My Wonderful Day (Ensemble Theatre Co) and many more. She’s working in an upcoming Australian feature film, The Casting Game.

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Qu.1. How did you start your acting career?

I have always had a love for the arts, particularly acting. From a young age I was heavily involved in drama classes inside and outside of school. When I graduated from year 12 I moved to Sydney on a whim to pursue acting as a career. I studied performance at Sydney Uni, and was involved in a lot of fringe theatre at the Australian Theatre for Young People and New theatre. What started my professional career was the opportunity I had at Ensemble theatre in ‘My Wonderful Day’ to play Winnie. The ball kind of got rolling from there. To this day it’s one of the most memorable ensembles and productions I have ever been in.

Qu.2. Who were your role models on TV/Film when you were growing up and why?

There are many actors who I found inspirational growing up and continue to find inspirational. Actors like Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington to name a few. I find their dedication to their craft and their ability to transform into other worlds while maintaining an uncompromising sense of self quite amazing.

My ‘role models’ have been influential more in my adult years. Women like Viola Davis and Kerry Washington I look up to. Through their career progression and outspokenness in the industry, they have profoundly shaped the perspective I have of myself as an actor. They are strong, black women, and they inspire me to challenge myself and stereotypes, and it’s refreshing to see them play roles that are complex and not dependant on the way they look.  I think naturally we find role models in people who we strongly identify with. In people who motivate us to be better people.

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Qu.3. Do you think there are enough diverse roles for people of colour in Australian TV / Film?

Haha, No. I think there will be enough diverse roles for people of colour (and all other minority groups) in Australian TV/Film when diversity isn’t even a thing. When TV and film reflects our unique and multifaceted society and where diversity on TV/film becomes just a way of life. We have a long way to go, but I’m happy that we are going in the right direction. I think it’s everyone’s collective responsibility to continually improve this. Every person has a way in which they can make diversity more mainstream. Casting agents, writers, networks, producers, actors and audiences can all contribute to making diversity more mainstream by the choices they make and what they choose to accept.

Qu.4. What would your ideal role be and why?

I always have trouble answering this question. I don’t  have an ideal role in terms of the ‘type’ of person I would like to play. As ultimately, I believe all characters I play reveal a unique aspect of myself. Any role in which I get to explore, play and have a positive impact is ideal.

Qu.5. What’s your next exciting project?

The Casting Game. A film written by Joy Hopwood and directed by Pearl Tan. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s hilarious, and there is a great team behind it.

Qu.6. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

Passionate about life, family and friends. Ambitious to learn and grow.

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The Casting Game will be premiering on Sept 10th at Hoyts Mandarin Centre, closing the annual Joy House Film Festival.

Level 3, 65 Albert Ave, Chatswood NSW 2067

 

Interview with Australian Author, Roanna Gonsalves, “The Permanent Resident.”

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1) How did you get started as a writer?

I have always wanted to be a writer. I remember writing poems as a very small girl. They were quite terrible, but I loved the act and process of writing. As I was growing up in Mumbai, my aunties in Kuwait and Australia would write letters to me and expect letters back. I enjoyed spending time with a pencil and paper, giving them information about our day-to-day lives, thinking they would be impressed with big words like ‘length’ and ‘breadth’. After I finished my degree in English Literature at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai University, I got a job in journalism, and learned to write to a deadline. The moment I started writing fiction while doing the MA in Writing at UTS, I knew I had found my calling. Fom then on it has been a hard slog as a writer, but a joyful one.

2) What made you want to write “The Permanent Resident”?

I wanted to chronicle our contemporary presence here as Indian Australians, not with autobiography but with fiction. I wanted to render on the page, the complexities of being an outsider yet wanting to be an insider, while being burdened and also strengthened in different ways by culture, class, gender and religious background. I wanted to add my voice to the tradition of writers of indigenous and non white heritage who are trying to change the way Australia imagines itself – as a White nation. But I also wanted to play with language, as a child plays in the sand. Most of the stories in The Permanent Resident started as sparkles of word bundles in my head and in the process of putting those words down on paper I understood the story that was emerging from them, the story I had to tell.

3) How long did it take you to write your story? (was it over a few years of journal/diary writing?)

As this is not a work of autobiography but a work of the imagination, I didn’t really rely on journals or diaries. Some stories are based on incidents that happened in Australia, such as the spate of violence against Indian students a few years ago, or tragic cases of violence and abuse of women by their husbands. This book took me about four or five years to write as part of a PhD at UNSW (the other part is a sociological study of the contemporary Indian literary field in the English language). However, this book is based on decades of writing practice. It’s like it takes a chef a few hours to prepare their signature dish, but those few hours are possible only because of years and years of training and practice as a chef.

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4) What message do you want your readers to take away after reading your story?

I would be ecstatic if readers get to the last word of the last sentence of the last story, and wish the book didn’t end. For me, literature is about speaking to that part of ourselves that is not fed by excel spreadsheets and shopping trolleys and electricity bills, however necessary (or not) these things may be for our survival. It’s that feeling of being enchanted that I aspire to when it comes to what I hope for when someone reads The Permanent Resident.

5) When growing up, who were your favourite writers/authors and why?

When I was growing up, my mother who worked for Glaxo, would bring home magazines and books every week from her office library. I read everything she brought home, from Women’s Era and Savvy, and Femina magazines, to the Trixie Belden series and all sorts of Enid Blyton books. As a child I loved the adventures that Trixie Belden went on near the Hudson River in America. It sounded so far away and exotic to me, growing up in Mumbai. The Famous Five would always drink ginger beer and play in the heather. These were alien and therefore highly desirable to me as a child. It was the adventures that these children were having in those enticing stories that attracted me to them like iron filings to a magnet. I remember trying to mimic these adventures around the compound of our block of flats. I’m so glad that this cultural imperialism of the West is not as strong as it used to be in the 70s and 80s. There are so many amazing Indian publishers of kids books in different languages now, such as Tara Books, Tulika, Katha, FunOkPlease, Karadi Tales, Eklavya, Pratham. Navayana’s Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability, Juggernaut’s Ramayana For Children by Arshia Sattar, Goa 1556’s Espi Mai series by Anita Pinto, and all of Tara Books’ gorgeous books are standouts.

My parents got us a subscription to Target magazine for kids. From what I could remember it was very Delhi-focussed, with big Delhi words like mohalla and gol gappa in it, words that I was not familiar with, we used different words in Mumbai. This added to the attraction for me. Occasionally we would read the wonderful Amar Chitra Katha comics about Hindu mythology. Growing up in the Catholic community, we had lots of reading material about Catholic saints around and I think I wanted to be a saint for a brief period of time because when the female saints died a shower of roses would always fall from heaven, and that sounded quite glorious to me. I must say that the stories in Don Bosco’s Madonna, a weekly publication that most people in my community would read from cover to cover, had a big impression on me because it contained wonderfully implausible stories of hardship and ultimate redemption, the perfect hero’s journey.

6) What advice would you like to give to upcoming writers?

Read all you can and write as often as you can. As with anything, it’s all about practice.

7) What’s next for you after The Permanent Resident? Have you got a sequel or another story up your sleeve?

I have so many different ideas that I want to work on, so many different stories. It’s about balancing a day job to pay the rent and then prioritising the most urgent stories that I would like to tell. I hope I can manage this precarious balance in a suitable way in the future.

Roanna Gonsalves is an Indian Australian writer and academic. Her series of radio documentaries entitled On the tip of a billion tongues, was commissioned and first broadcast by Earshot, ABC RN in November and December 2015. It is an acerbic socio-political portrayal of contemporary India through its multilingual writers. She received the Prime Minister’s Endeavour Award 2013, and is co-founder co-editor of Southern Crossings. She is the author of The Permanent Resident a collection of short fiction published by UWAP in November 2016. http://uwap.uwa.edu.au/products/the-permanent-resident
See roannagonsalves.com.au for more information.

 

Interview with Australian actor & martial artist Maria Tran

Maria Tran is an Australian-Vietnamese. Her recent works includes short films such as “Enter The Dojo”, “Gaffa”, “Hit Girls” as well as Hollywood legend, Roger Corman’s upcoming mix martial arts movie playing killer assassin Zhen. Tran also starred as Yoshiko in the Chinese action film “Death Mist” in 2014 starring Bruce Leung (Kung Fu Hustle). In 2008 she acted in “Downtown Rumble” Kung Fu action micro-series on JTV-ABC TV and her short film “Gaffa; another action comedy, won Hoyts People’s Choice Award for the Joy House Film Festival in 2013.

Maria Tran won a “Breakout Action Actress” award at the 2013 Action on Film International Festival for her portrayal of the character Charlie Vu in the female assassin comedy, “Hit Girls”. She also played supporting character “Mai Le” in Logie award-winning children’s ABC TV series “My Place”, stunt double for the character “Petal” in ABC’s TV series Maximum Choppage – Australia’s first Kung Fu comedy and acted in her first theatre production called “It’s War!” directed by Alex Lykos.

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What made you want to do martial arts & acting as a career?

I recall growing up and being bullied quite often in school. I was called “Ching Chong” or “Gook” at times and the bullying became physical in an incident where I got slapped in the face, my hair pulled and I was shoved around a group of girls. The moment left me shocked, frustrated and confused why I was subjected to such treatment and it left me angry. My parents must of picked it up and suggested that I try martial arts to learn self defence to protect myself from those cases.

In 1998 I enrolled in Tae Kwon Do in a local school based in Cabramatta and become quite invested in it. Martial arts allowed me to let go of my external inhibitions, become stronger, with more focus and discipline. I performed my craft during school show and tells, spoke extensively about it, and I noticed that I carried myself differently; with a strong air of confidence and since that moment, no one ever confronted me again.

Acting came around in 2007 during a local project I produced called “Maximum Choppage”. It was an independent movie made by predominately Asian-Australians from Western Sydney. It was during this time that my acting bug was ignited and only several years later did I publicly embrace my passion in this, as prior I was unsure about my abilities and being Asian sometime means you have to make choices that also make your parents proud.

What were the challenges you found when you started?

I love martial arts but loathe begin boxed into this. After a string of martial arts short films and movies made in China and Vietnam, I was beginning to be labelled as the “kung fu girl” and nothing else. I was pigeon holed as a “stuntie” which I had no accreditation for, which in turned infuriated the stunt community as well. I wanted to be seen as an actor but didn’t have enough dramatic credits to show for as well as not formally trained. The challenges can be felt immensely when you are doing things the less conventional sense and going against the grain. I found that I had to gear myself psychological for the fight; the fight and rebuttal against all the subtle forms of racism that people often questioned if it was real or imagined.

Who were your role models growing and why?

My roles models stemmed from the martial arts action cinema of the 80s and 90s in Hong Kong. I grew up huddling around the TV during family gatherings to watch VHS tape of Jackie Chan’s latest flick or get excited seeing female fatale onscreen action queens such as Cynthia Khan, Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock. Film and television at that time was super white; a Country Practice, Neigbours and Home and Away with storytelling that just doesn’t gel with who I am. But Hong Kong cinema allowed me to think of the possibilities and the relief that Asian faces were heroes and heroines in their lives and adventure in other places in the world despite the dire lack in Australia.

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What has been your career highlight/ highlights?

My career highlight would have to be being invited to work with my long-term idol; Jackie Chan on the movie “Bleeding Steel” as it was shot in Sydney in mid 2016. Screen NSW gave me the call to take part as a stunt attachment and be around on set and learn the ropes. It was an insightful experience to see the difference between the Chinese way of filmmaking; which is fast pace and intuitive in comparison to the Australian way; which was much more structured and formal. Both had its pros and cons and seeing how cultural differences also affect how people relate to each other. Regardless, Jackie Chan is perhaps one of the most humbling person I’ve ever met. He takes on multi roles, works very hard, pushes himself and people and makes it a duty to look after everyone. It’s a reminder to me that if everyone took the time to implement what the value in human beings, the world would be a better place and things like “racism” just won’t exist.

What do you think about Colourblind casting in Australia? Are we getting better?

I think the Australian film industry have always been veered towards their Anglo-saxon audiences for decades, hence there’s always been an inequality between white and diverse actors. In addition, there are moments in the casting system that allows for ethnic roles to be taken away in favour for those who are privileged enough to enter prestige acting schools and can afford to focus on this craft for several years. From my experience, I’ve had several instances where I would see roles made for a particular culture casted to those from another ethnicity, quite possibly because “All Asians looks the same” mentality and if the majority of the Australian audiences can’t pick out the differences, then that’s fine. The truth stand that it is not, and I think there is a movement happening in Australia from the Asian demographics that with time, will lead to change.

What do you think about the diversity issue in Australian television / Film / Theatre?

It’s still an issue that affects all Asian actors as well as stories from this demographic. The issue is multifacet as well as still unexplored. I feel like sometimes when us Asians mention the word “diversity” we are perceived as attention seekers in the media eye. But this is what we want, and why is it such an issue when we raise our voices? Is it possibly because mainstream prefer to stereotype Asians as submissive, nerdy, quiet types? If this is so, I think we still need to continue the movement for change, inspire and activate more people in understanding the issues and find our own ways of representation.

Where do you see yourself in five years time? (What more do you want to achieve in your career?)

In the next 5 years I see myself internationally in China and Vietnam in both acting and filmmaking roles in their movie system. In 2015 I worked on Vietnamese blockbuster “Tracer” and this movie got released all over Vietnam as well as across Australian cinemas and it just shows that maybe to bring more diversity on Australian screens is to think laterally and work internationally. I still see Sydney, Australia as an anchor for my career and possibly delving in more TV series and movies roles as well. Of course there’s also the big smoke of Hollywood that I will venture off to; with broad imaginations that one-day I can also play a super hero of some sort.

Interview with Aussie actor & Bollywood star Nicholas Brown

 

Nicholas Brown is an Australian actor, singer, songwriter, and screenwriter. He grew up in the Western Sydney suburb of Greysteins. He attended Newtown High School of the Performing Arts in years 11 and 12 as an auditioned drama student. He is an acting graduate from Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art.

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Qu.1. What made you want to be in the acting industry?

Music was the catalyst without a doubt. I was a child singer and did a lot of musicals when I was young. I sang in a professional boys choir and got a taste for showbiz through that. We did lots of gigs around Sydney and recorded albums with several singers. Through song lyrics I became interested in acting. I always loved drama classes when I was young but the entry point was definitely through musicals. My dad hired a video camera back in the eighties to film one of my school musicals  and we were able to have it in the house for a few days after. At seven, I had planned a film shoot with the kids up the road and I was going to use the hired video camera to direct and act in it. That’s when I first became interested in film making.
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Qu.2. Where are you based now and what are you working on?
I’m based in Sydney after a good nine years going back and forth between Mumbai and Los Angeles. Right now I’m in rehearsals for my self penned play Lighten Up for Griffin Independant. I’ve just finished shooting a feature in Arnhem Land called Myth which is an art house road trip film engaging with the Indigenous community in remote Northern Territory. This year I’ve also shot two Indian feature films. One Bollywood horror film called Prattichhaya  and the other a spy thriller called Sedition. Both will be released next year. I’m feeling very grateful as it’s been a good year.
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Qu.3. What is your favourite role in your career & why?
Sedition is the film that I just shot in the Himalayas. The character’s name is Shiva. It was by far the most challenging role I’ve played. In Australian film and TV I’m often a supporting role so it was refreshing to play a lead. It was extremely psychologically and physically challenging so in that sense it was my favourite. The experience was rather harrowing but in hindsight I think it’s my favourite role so far for those reasons. Other favourite roles would have to be Jesus in the Indian Jesus Christ Superstar, Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and The Beast, Tony in the Bollywood film Kites and Sachin in Network Ten’s The Cooks.
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Qu.4. Who were your role models growing up and why?
In Australia there were no diverse actors on TV. My role models were all Caucasian actors. I didn’t actually realise I was ‘ethnic’ until I was older. A lot of my identity issues would have been dealt with in an easier way if I’d grown up looking up to other non Caucasian actors. If only I grew up watching Bollywood. That all came later.  In my early twenties Ben Kingsley became a huge role model. I remember feeling very inspired by Jay L’aagalia on Water Rats and by Deborah Mailman on Secret Life Of Us.
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Qu.5
 What do you think about colourblind casting in Australia? Do you think we’re doing enough?
We’ve been lagging behind for years. It’s something that has left me exhausted, frustrated but still hopeful. It’s a hot topic now and I’ve been vocal about it for sixteen years. I just get on with things these days. I’ve been slowly chipping away, creating my own work when doors were closed. Moving to India was one of the best decisions I’d ever made. If Australia didn’t have place for a brown actor then I would go somewhere that did. Things
definitely are getting better and that makes me very happy. I’m all for quotas. I know it’s a controversial subject and that people argue that the best person for the job should get the job but in an industry saturated by Caucasians actors – all of those people seen as the best are white and have reached that point because of the way the industry once was. To create a diverse industry in the future I think we need quotas to get new diverse actors (who’ve been devoid of opportunity) trained and experienced so they can be the ‘best.’ Let’s reach a state of equality, then scrap the quotas, then the best person for the job can get the job.
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Nicholas Brown will be starring in Lighten Up which will be performed at Griffin Theatre. A play produced by Bali Padda and written by Nicholas Brown and Sam McCool.
Monday – Saturday 7pm
Saturday 17 December 2pm & 7pm
About:  Lighten Up

In Australia, we like ‘em blonde and bronzed. In India, it’s ‘fair and lovely’. What happens if you’re stuck in between?

John Green is an Anglo-Indian Australian actor who dreams of being cast in his favourite soap, ‘Bondi Parade’. The problem is, his coloured contacts can’t hide the fact that his skin is more brown than white. Meanwhile, his skin bleaching mum, Bronwyn, is adamant that he should be procreating with a blonde, white Aussie woman to rid the family of any sign of their ethnic heritage. You guess who he falls in love with.

This very funny play by actor (and Bollywood leading-man) Nicholas Brown and comedian Sam McCool tells a universal tale of identity, cultural assimilation and bleaching your bits.

Crowd funding Pozible campaign for Lighten Up https://pozible.com/project/lighten-up

Crowd funding ends 4th November 2016.
Photos courtesy of Nicholas Brown and Griffin Theatr

Interview with Takaya Honda (from the Family Law & Play School) now Neighbours!

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Takaya Honda is an Australian stage and screen actor. He’s known for his role as Klaus Thomson in the 2016 comedy TV series, The Family Law , Play School and now Neighbours.

He was born in Canberra, but moved to Sydney at a young age and attended Sydney school Barker College graduating in 2005. He then attended the College Of Fine Arts (UNSW) in 2006 studying a Bachelor of Digital Media before transferring to the University of Technology Sydney in 2007 to study a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (MediaArts and Production) which he graduated from on the 29th April 2011.

JOY: Congratulations on landing a regular role for Neighbours. Please tell us briefly about the whole casting process.

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TAKAYA: The audition process began with a self test. I had originally been sent the sides for the role of my twin, Leo but was able to get my hands on the sides for David from a friend, filmed both and sent them through to casting. About two weeks after that I got a call back and had to fly down to Melbourne. For the call back I had to prepare for both roles, so had to know both scenes and they also sent a scene through between the two brothers and I had to learn both roles in that as well. The callback was with about 7 others, all of varying Asian mixes, we were called in at different points to either play the scenes either with the actors playing the roles opposite (in this case Zoe Cramond and Matt Wilson) or one of the other auditionees and we were at the studios for about 4-5 hours. About two weeks after that I had to fly back down to Melbourne again for another callback. This time we had to have all three previous scenes ready, as well as three new ones, two with another character in the show (who I don’t think I can name) and another between the two brothers, again learning both sides of the scenes. This call back had us down to the ‘final’ four. It was another lengthy audition lasting a few hours and with a lot of chop and changing between different combinations of people. In this callback we were fortunate to be able to run the scenes with the current cast members prior to going into the room, which was a huge help. After that callback it took around 2-3 weeks before I got the call from my agent saying I had gotten the role of David.
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JOY: Would you say Neighbours is your breakthrough role?
TAKAYA: It’s hard to say what my breakthrough role is, whether I’ve had it or even whether Neighbours is (will be) that. I feel it is something for others to judge. However I have been awarded some amazing experiences, from my first role (and audition) with A Gurls Wurld through to The Family Law, My Great Big Adventure, Play School and now Neighbours. To a degree I feel it’s hard for those of diverse backgrounds to have breakthrough roles in the same way as our caucasian acting brethren. I feel that the opportunities I have had would have opened more doors to a caucasian actor than have been for me. But, I must be clear in saying that I am truly very grateful for these opportunities.
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JOY: What made you want to get into the film/TV industry?

TAKAYA: Growing up I kinda wanted to do everything. I wanted to be the doctor, the lawyer and the fighter pilot and I came to realise that acting would allow me to play all of those things and more! I’ve also always had a passion for the visual – ever since I got my hands on a camera I have not been able to help myself but to try to capture the things I see around me.

JOY: How did you get started in your career?
TAKAYA: I had some fantastically supportive teachers at High School (Barker College), namely Damien Ryan and Terry Karabelas who really gave me an understanding of what Acting is and the reality of what a career in acting can be. Damien then invited me to perform with Sport For Jove Theatre Company where I have performed in a bunch of Shakespeare plays which lead to getting representation and the slog of years of working odd jobs with a peppering of Acting gigs. I’ve been a videographer/editor, photographer, light and sound rigging crew, cinema usher, web administrator, promotional model, casting assistant and the classic actor job – a bartender. I have done my best to keep my work as relevant as I could to the industry and am cherishing the time I am given now to be working as an actor full-time.
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JOY: Do you think there’s a positive change in the TV/Film industries for more diversity?
TAKAYA: I think there is, the efforts that Neighbours are making are very positive and I do believe they are trying to do it the right way. With our characters, rather than be the two asian guys moving into Erinsborough, we are two Australians who have Japanese heritage and our storylines are like any other characters on the show, not ethnically specific, which is quite refreshing. We do not feel any pressure to be representatives for Japan or the immigrant experience – we just get to play within the world of our characters, which is rich with ‘Neighbours’ drama. The Family Law is another great example of a positive move within the industry and I hope that there are more opportunities like these ahead across the full gamut of Australian media.
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JOY: Who inspires you in the industry?
TAKAYA: Those who inspire me in the industry are those who give back to it, and the broader community. Those who use the platform of celebrity to increase the amount of joy in the world are really who I look up to. In terms of acting I could rattle off the usual suspects but to me the likes of Miranda Tapsell as seemingly the industries voice of diversity, Charlotte Nicdao for being a friend who is so incredible at articulating her wisdom not just to me but the broader public (even in the face of denigrating criticism), Waleed Aly for the reasoning he brings to arguments and when thinking towards the international industry, Seth and Lauren Rogen for their work on Alzheimer’s, Aziz Ansari for so cleverly integrating the struggle of diverse actors into ‘Master of None’ – I could go on, but these humans who have taken the gift of popularity and used it for something outside of themselves, and who work towards bettering us as a whole. These people inspire me.
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JOY: What do you want to achieve in the future?
TAKAYA: Everything. haha. I don’t know – it is so hard in this industry to predict or dictate your own career that for me I like to provide myself with options and be happy with whatever path appears to me. Even just a couple of weeks before auditioning for Neighbours I wouldn’t have thought that it would have been a part of my journey. So, I like to stay open and positive because you just never know.

Book Review & Interview with Anita Heiss

LIN WONG’S KIDS’ BOOK CLUB

Kicking Goals by Anita Heiss, Adam Goodes & Michael O’Loughlin.

Anita Heiss is an Australian author working across a range of areas: children’s literature, chick literature, non-fiction, historical fiction, commercial women’s fiction, poetry, social commentary, extending her reader’s knowledge and understanding of contemporary Aboriginal life in Australia. She’s a wonderful role model for the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy and an Advocate for the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and an Indigenous Literacy Day Ambassador. Kicking Goals is her latest book which is a collaboration with former footballers Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin.

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Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin are AFL legends, blood brothers and great mates. They’re two of the best footballers ever to play for the Sydney Swans. But how did they meet and become mates? What were they like when they were kids? What did they get up to at school? And what was it like to go from being normal teenagers to AFL superstars? These are popular questions kids would love to know. And all of these questions are answered in Kicking Goals where they tell their stories of friendship in their own words, as told to Anita Heiss.

 

My favourite parts in this book are the moments where Adam and Michael reveal their humility and kindness.

Michael says, “Adam’s friendship means a lot to me. The toughest moment for me was the death of my grandmother, and Adam was really solid. With those types of things, and with my family living thousands of miles away, you need to be able to rely on each other.”

And Adam says, “Kids can be leaders by helping others who might be struggling to learn. If you’re really good at something, you can help teach other people your skills.”

I was lucky to interview Anita Heiss earlier this year.

Lin Wong: What do you do each day that gives you joy?

Anita Heiss: Starting my day with a run gives me joy – this may be along the Brisbane River, Maroubra Beach (Sydney) or around Treasury Gardens (Melbourne) depending on where I am on any given day. Running clears my head, helps me work through my storylines and makes me feel good about myself and the day ahead.

The second thing I try to do most days is have a coffee with a tidda. The venue really doesn’t matter; it’s just the time to yarn, debrief, laugh and quite often plot that brings me joy.
Lin Wong: What do you do to stimulate your creativity?

Anita Heiss: I people watch. I talk to people. I put my running shoes and hit the pavement. Sometimes, I just lie down and clear my head of anything that is not about what I am supposed to be focussed on, because the one thing that stifles creativity most is a head full of chaos about things unrelated to my current project.

Lin Wong: What has inspired & motivated you to write your first ever book?

Anita Heiss: I was at UNSW doing my Honours degree and realised nearly every book on the shelf about Aboriginal anything was written by a non-Aboriginal author, and even authors who had never been to Australia. I knew that my responsibility as someone with access to education was to provide a voice for those without. My first book Sacred Cows (Magabala Books, 1996) though was really a statement to say that we (Aboriginal people) could equally write about non-Aboriginal people because we have been socialised, educated and employed though white institutions.

Kicking Goals is Anita’s latest kids’ book and I give it a 9/10.

Well done and congratulations to her, Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin for creating great kids literature.

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Interview with Jeremy Fernandez about Diversity in Australian Media

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Jeremy Fernandez grew up in Malaysia before his family migrated to Australia when he was 13. He is an Australian journalist and a television news presenter with ABC News 24. Fernandez joined theAustralian Broadcasting Corporation in 2000 working as a producer for ABC Local Radio. He has worked as a voice-over artist for Seven Network and has worked with CNN International in London, UK as a writer and a producer before joining ABC again in 2010. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremy on behalf of The Equity Diversity Committee about Diversity in Australian Media.

Who were your role models on TV / film when growing up here in Australia? 

Some of my earliest role models were actually teachers. I often wished to be as knowledgeable, articulate, patient, and generous as many of them were. Some of these early role models had grown-up poor, or disabled. Many were women. Some were gay, young, elderly, religious, atheist. And they had different skin colours. The diversity didn’t strike me as remarkable. It was only in my mid-teens that I noticed my reality was barely reflected on screen.

What gives you joy and satisfaction in your job each day?

I’m surrounded at the ABC, by some of the cleverest, most hardworking people in the industry. So I’m regularly star-struck.

I love the varied nature of my work: One day I’m writing & researching; And the next, I’m on air with rolling news for 3 hours.

I get the biggest buzz out of breaking news, particularly on location as a presenter and reporter. Interacting with viewers in real life, or on social media, is great. For all that’s changing in this industry nothing beats face-to-face time.

Did you experience any barriers trying to break into Australian journalism & broadcasting?

I consider myself very lucky to do the work I do. Of course, there were those who told me not to go barking up the wrong career tree. Most of them weren’t being mean-spirited. They wanted me to know that this was not an industry known for its diversity. I came into it with both eyes open, and tried my luck anyway. I will however, admit to being dogged about proving wrong, the guy who told me, “Don’t worry. There’s always SBS”. I love SBS, of course. But it shouldn’t be the only source of media employment for the large fraction of Australians who were born overseas.

Do you think there’s enough diverse representation in Australian media / TV / film? (If not, what changes would you like to see?)

I’ve had a great run with the ABC. But even ol’ Aunty will admit there’s work to do, as there is in much of corporate Australia. I think we need more indigenous voices & faces in the mainstream media. I’d also like to see diversity understood more broadly. Intersectionality between race, gender, sexuality, disability, wealth, and age is more than we can necessarily see with the naked eye. But it harbours a tremendous amount of valuable lived experience.

What advice would you like to give to up and coming journalists and for those breaking into television?

Don’t do it if you’re just looking to get your mug on screen. It gets old very quickly. Learn to write well. Develop an eye for detail. Be OK with shift work. Be inquisitive- ask the ‘dumb questions’ everyone else is afraid to ask. Be respectful of your subjects & audience, even if you disagree with them. Dream big, but also be honest with yourself. Define success your own way. And don’t be afraid to change your mind.

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Fernandez (ABC TV)

International Women’s Day event and march 2016

On Saturday 12th March 2016, I was asked to emcee the International Women’s Day event and march where over 800 people turned up to show their support for equality and no violence against women, which was arranged by the NSW workers union.

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To begin the event we had a fabulous flash mob dancing which everyone enjoyed, as it set the positive tone for the event.

Yvonne Weldon then opened the event with a welcome to country, followed by Jenna Price, a renowned journalist and academic who with many other hard working women, works on Destroy the Joint, which is an online feminist action group. Destroy the joint started counting dead women as a way to honour women killed; and in a way to concentrate our minds on this national tragedy.

Liza Maza was the next speaker who is a prominent figure in the international community for her support and contribution to the struggles and plights of women all over the world. Liza visited us from the Philippines where she is a member of the Gabriella Women’s Party who also represented the House of Representatives. From Parliament to the streets, Liza has advanced the Fillipino women’s fight for economy, political and social rights.

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Lastly we had Sharon McKinnon, a refuge worker in the Western suburbs of Sydney for the last 30 years, who was most recently the manager of Jessie Street Women’s refuge. Sharon is an active member of the NSW Coalition for Women’s Refuges.

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After hearing these courageous women speak about the challenges we face as women, we marched together, united as women, down Macquarie Street finishing at Parpeian Way where we all gathered together and celebrated International Women’s Day together.

 

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