The Script of Life (feature film) interview with leading actress – Erica Long

Erica and Callum in fruit shop - The script of life *

ABOUT Leading actress – ERICA LONG (who plays Lana Ong)

Erica Long is a Chinese/Taiwanese Australian actor who graduated from UNSW with a law degree before deciding to dive into the industry. She has been in such films as Pearl Tan’s “The Casting Game” and Joy Hopwood’s “The Script of Life”. She has also appeared in Tsu Shan Chambers’ digital series, “The Wild Orchards”, which generated 9 award nominations at LA Web Fest 2018 and is also one of the Executive Producers of Serhat Caradee’s latest feature film, “A Lion Returns”.

Q.1. What made you want to break into acting as a career?

I was terrified of drama in high school and always got a nose bleed whenever I had to perform. I was so filled with dread that one time, I hid in the toilet until my drama teacher came to find me. These memories from high school were like stains that refused to go away. Once I finished my law degree, I decided to challenge myself by taking a short screen acting course at NIDA. And gosh was I surprised – it was extraordinarily fun, I got along really well with everyone in my class, and I felt like I could give a voice to multiple people and live multiple lives in one lifetime. That was when I caught the bug!

Erica Long by Kathy Luu

Q.2. Who were your role models when growing up and why? 

I love Ang Lee – his films, his story and his perspective of the world. As a Taiwanese artist who studied in and later struggled for years in America, each piece of his work is incredibly different yet at the same time, they all explore the idea of repression and being an outsider (outsider in society, outsider to oneself, outsider to one’s family and culture etc). I find his work fascinating, universal and reflective. I also find his persistence inspiring – to me, he is the embodiment that our journey as creatives is a marathon, not a run.

Q.3. What was your last big acting job? (The Script of Life)

I was cast as one of the leads in Joy Hopwood’s feature film, The Script of Life. I’d worked with Joy previously and she asked me to go in for a read with the lead, Callum Alexander. At the time, I thought she just wanted to watch Cal’s performance live (he had auditioned via self tape) and wanted a reader in the room so she could focus on his performance. As it turned out, the read was part of my audition for the role of Lana Ong. It’s funny how the universe works sometimes – unbeknownst to Joy at the time, Cal and I are good friends and I was Cal’s reader when he put together his self tape! After that afternoon, we had a few more script reads together and Joy decided she would keep me on. I was over the moon when I heard this.

In terms of being on set, I loved working with the whole cast and crew. Everyone was always relaxed, playful, professional and happy – we had blunders here and there but we always managed to straighten our faces, stop laughing and keep going. The film is set in Spring but we shot most of the film during winter and I distinctly remember all of us trying to keep each other warm by finding random blankets / jumpers (seemingly out of nowhere) and passing it to each other! It was like we were one giant happy family.

Q.4. What changes have you seen in the last few years in regards to diversity?

The past few years has seen an abundance of conversations regarding diversity in the industry. In addition, the successes of movies like Crazy Rich Asians, Black Panther and Always Be My Maybe has demonstrated that there is a huge audience for a diverse cast. I think major studios, networks and streaming services are finding themselves increasingly incentivised by the audience from the bottom-up and senior management from the top-down to write and produce projects that more accurately represent society, whether that be in terms of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation etc.

We are also starting to see a similar movement in the Australian industry. Shows such as Hungry Ghosts, Chosen, Pulse and Cleverman (just to name a few) and plays such as The Big Time, Chimerica and Australian Graffiti indicate that there are now more diverse people who occupy roles both behind and in front of the camera and stage and that the industry is now trying to reach a position where representation is no longer talked about because representation is the norm.

Erica Long in demin Jacket - The script of Life

Q.5. How can we maintain diversity in the entertainment industry?

I think it is important for people to continue to challenge the traditional image of who should be cast in a particular role and ask “what if” a person of colour or a person of a different gender or sexual orientation played that role instead? By doing this, I think we will be able to distribute more opportunities across the field and ensure that creatives across all fields are able to develop. By ensuring that the talent pool is able to upskill and be recognised by the industry, we will be able to prevent talent from dropping out of the game prematurely. Ultimately, if we remain open to new voices and trying new things, beautiful stories and voices which have hitherto been unheard or unseen will start to emerge.

Q.6. What quote do you live by and why?

At the moment, I’m living by Will Smith’s quote “Don’t chase people. Do your own thing, be yourself and work hard. The right people – the ones that really belong in your life – will come to you. And stay.

Q.7. What do you find doing in your spare time other than acting to maintain wellness?

I love to spend time with my cats (Creme Brûlée and Souffle). I also love to travel and often find myself daydreaming and researching about my next destination. Lastly, I go to boxing sessions with my friends – nothing too serious, more boxercise than anything but it’s great fun! I have a love / hate relationship with this last one but I find that it helps me deal with any stress or pent up frustration / anger I may have at the time.

Q.8. Who is your favourite actor/ actress and why?

Peter Dinklage, hands down. He’s just such an inspiration – he’s an animal rights’ advocate, he’s extremely talented and charismatic and he’s someone who has made it in the entertainment industry without ever compromising his own code. I was listening to a speech that he gave and he said “Don’t search for defining moments, because they will never come. The moments that define you have already happened, and they will already happen again. Don’t wait until they tell you you are ready. Get in there. I waited a long time out in the world before I gave myself permission to fail. What did Beckett say? “Ever tried, ever failed, no matter, try again, fail again, fail better.” The world is yours. Treat everyone kindly, and light up the night.” I love this.

Q.9. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time? 

Gosh, that’s a long way away! I would love to be a series regular on a science fiction / speculative fiction or courtroom drama show (along the likes of Rake, The Good Wife and The Handmaid’s Tale). I’d also love to be spending time with my future family and my fur babies (my two cats).

Q.10. What advice do you have for the next generation?

As actors, we often don’t even hear the word “no”. Instead, we battle through a lot of silences. There are a lot of days when I feel inadequate and I’ve recently realised that the only way I’ve managed to drag myself out of these days is to live life. Life is happening all around us – make friends, spend time with family, travel and delve into a hobby that’s not acting. Love yourself, love others and love life.

The Script Of Life has won best Romance Comedy at Amsterdam International Film Festival, Finalist – Best Cinematography Awards, World Film Fair Finalist 2020 and is set for release 14th February 2020 through Leomark Studios L.A. (distribution)

Interview with Alex Lykos about his latest film, “Me and my left brain,” & his latest idea for the Oz film industry.

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Alex Lykos makes his directing debut, a new Australian comedy called Me & My Left Brain & is the writer of the successful Aussie movie – Alex and Eve.

Me & My Left Brain stars Mal Kennard as Left Brain (Catching Milat), Rachel Beck as Vivien (Hey Dad!), Chantelle Barry as Helen (Entourage) and Laura Dundovic as Sandra (Ruben Guthrie) as well as Lykos who plays the film’s central character Arthur – his second acting role after a brief appearance in Alex & Eve.

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J.H: What inspired you want to make, Me and my left brain?
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A.L: The making of Alex & Eve film wasn’t a pleasant experience for me. And coming from the theatre whereby we were putting on 2 shows a year, the process of filmmaking felt extremely slow. We spent 6 years in development and I thought that there has to be a better way. So for my next film I adapted Me & My Left Brain which I knew could be shot on a much lower budget and therefore get it made much quicker.
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J.H: How did you come to choose your actors? (What was your casting process?)
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A.L: Being the writer of the film, I had a strong but abstract idea of what I was looking for. I put together a shortlist of names for each role and then met with prospective actors. For example, for the role of Left Brain, I planned to me with Mal Kennard for half-hour. Two-hours later, we were finishing each other’s sentences. The chemistry was instant.
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J.H: Do you see a change in the TV and cinema landscape regarding diversity?
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A.L: I think now there is a strong push at both the state level of government and an overall acknowledgement from the public that we are a diverse nation. And with more and more creatives from a CALD background, there is a shift in progress, which will gain momentum and down the road the shift will be exponential.
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J.H: You are one of this year’s judges for the annual Joy House Film Festival, what are you looking out for & what makes a great film?
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A.L: I always gravitate to good story with interesting characters. Production values are nice but they do not make or break a film for me. If the story is good, I wont notice the production values.
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J.H: You’ve come up with a great idea attracting the Australian public to come and see more Australian Films, what made you come to think of this and what is it exactly?
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A.L: The idea came to me as we prepare to promote our film. Whilst brainstorming ideas I thought, what if Australians could watch Aussie movies for free? So from there I thought of an annual government cinema voucher scheme.
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J.H: When is “Me and my left brain?” coming out, where can we see it?
A.L: The film was scheduled for release 16th May. However, we understand that the federal election is going to be called for Saturday 18th May — which will make it tough as the country is distracted at this time.
We are speaking with cinemas for an alternative date in June. We are waiting to confirm this new date if it is possible.
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Alex Lykos video link:

Interview with Joy House Film Festival’s Best Women’s & People’s Choice Award Winners

The Annual Joy House Film Festival was on again at Hoyts cinema on Sept 9th, 2018. The only uplifting festival Downunder that promotes stories of JOY and celebrates DIVERSITY, supported by the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance’s Diversity Committee.

I had the privilege of interviewing our Winners, this week my interview is with our Best Women’s Filmmaker (“Munchies” – Hayley Warnock) and People’s Choice Winner (“That’s Life” – Katharine Rogers).

Munchies    That's life

1) What made you want to produce / make your short film?
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H.W.: I am a self taught stop motion animator. For every stop motion that I make, my aim is for it to be better then the previous one. This particular film Munchies had the biggest, most detailed set i’ve ever made before. It had proper film lighting instead of my desk lamps and I used stop motion computer software to help capture the animation. My overall goal for this film was to keep enhancing my animation skills and tell a story along the way.
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K.R.: Growing up I spent a lot of time watching movies.  They formed a lot of my childhood and I had an understanding of movie images and the power of stories to move people.  When I started telling stories it seemed natural to tell them in a visual medium.
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Hayley Warnock  Hayley Warnock Katharine Katharine Rogers
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2) What do you consider important as a filmmaker and why? 
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H.W.: When you don’t have human characters that people can relate to, I think as an animator you have to work extra hard for your characters performance to be taken seriously, however I think every element that goes into filmmaking is equally important. If you have a message that your audience can take away from your film, and they think about your film after it is shown, then you have created more than just a film.
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K.R.: It always comes back to story.  Everything you do should be informed by the story you’re telling.   And only tell the story if it’s something that matters to do you.
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3) Did you see any challenges whilst making your short film entry?
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H.W.: My biggest challenge while making Munchies was the ability to create realistic smooth movements. Stop motion obviously requires an incredible amount of patience and if you lose focus even for a second you can lose the flow of your movements. After creating all the elements of the set with plasticine or other materials, another challenge arose when I had to move house. It meant carefully picking up and transporting the set across Melbourne. To top it off it also meant tilting the set on its side to fit through the doorframe! It was a delicate process. Luckily there were only a few carrots that didn’t survive the trip.
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K.R.:

It’s always challenging making a short film. No have no budget or very little budget and you’re trying to make everything work to your advantage with only minimum help.   In my case I only had some of the actors for a short window of time, so I had to figure how to get the most out of the time and get the essential shots to tell the story.
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Munchies set  Munchies set
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4) Who inspired you to be a filmmaker and why?
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H.W.: I don’t necessarily get inspiration from any person in particular but rather certain films or single moments in films. When I was much younger I wanted to make films but I didn’t have anybody that wanted to act in them, so thats when I decided to make my first animation. I didn’t need to rely on any actors, I could create my own. However in saying that, YouTube has been an incredible source of inspiration for myself and if I had to pick a singular person, it would be Brit Marling.
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K.R.: ‘m not sure there was just one filmmaker.  There were a number of filmmakers who have influenced me over time.  It changes, a little I think as your tastes change.  I grew up watching MGM musicals so those must have had some influence and then I saw a of arthouse and offbeat cinema which as a young teenager kind of blew my mind, so all that factors in.
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That's life scene That’s Life
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5) How did you discover the annual Joy House Film Festival and why did you want to enter?
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H.W.: When entering film festivals you never really have anything to lose, so when I came across the Joy House Film Festival in the online platform FilmFreeway, I was delighted to read about the festival and subsequently entered. There is something extra special about film festivals hosted in Australia, and it was a great opportunity for my film to reach a wider audience.

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K.R: Three of my films have played at JHFF.  I can’t remember how I discovered it, probably via one of the film festival entry sites.  I think it’s always nice to have a screening in your home town and they’re aren’t masses of short film festivals in Sydney so Joy House Film Festival definitely adds to that landscape.

6) What’s the best thing about the Joy House Film Festival?
H.W.: I was lucky enough to attend the Joy House Film Festival this year. The biggest thing I noticed was that everyone was very supportive of each other with a general vibe of happiness going around! I also loved that it was inside the Hoyts cinema. Everyone’s film looked fantastic on the big screen!
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K.R.: I really like that the festival’s focus is on Joy and Diversity.  There aren’t really any other festivals I can think of that focus on that topic.  A lot of my films are joyful, which is unusual in Australia (lots of shorts made here tend to be quite dark) so it’s nice to have some place to show films that focus on something positive.
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Joy House Film Festival is always held on the Sunday after Father’s Day in September every year.
Spread the JOY! Pay it forward.

 

Interview with the Joy House Film Festival’s Diversity & Youth winners 2018

The Annual Joy House Film Festival was on again at Hoyts cinema on Sept 9th, 2018. The only uplifting festival Downunder that promotes stories of JOY and celebrates DIVERSITY, supported by the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance’s Diversity Committee.

I had the privilege of interviewing our Winners, this week our Youth & Diversity winners –   Shejuti Hossain (Creed) & Ehsan Knopf (Digby Webster)

S  Shejuti Hossain

E.  Ehsan Knopf

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1) What made you want to produce / make your short films?
E.K. : Digby Webster is a short excerpt from a longer feature documentary called “Flying Solo”, inspired by my own diagnosis with a disability, Asperger’s syndrome.
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S.H.: For me, it was about the message that our short film conveyed. Many cross cultural youth in Australia, myself included, face issues with being caught in the middle of two clashing cultures. It becomes an internal conflict where one is torn between wanting to follow the beliefs and traditions that they’ve been brought up with at home, as well as trying to ‘fit in’ to the starkly different culture present in the country/city they live in.
The aim of the film is to contribute to building resilience and social cohesion so that different cultures aren’t seen as opposing cultures. It aims to educate non-islamic people about our side of the story, how our faith isn’t any less than their beliefs, and how we can all live in harmony if we look past our prejudices.
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Digby Digby Webster Documentary
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2) What do you consider important as a filmmaker and why?
E.K. : Using the craft to offer a glimpse of a world largely unseen by the general public, and using that unique perspective to transforms perceptions around certain subject matter or theme – in this case disability.
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S.H.: Film is a powerful medium to spread a message as, if done well, it can captivate an audience and leave a real impression on them. Humans connect through stories, finding areas they can relate, and learning about something outside of themselves.
Filmmaking gives one the power to invite an audience into a certain realm for at least the duration of the film, and perhaps open their mind up more, ultimately making our world a more connected and interesting place to live. It can spark discussions, present new ideas and open up space for groups or minorities that didn’t have space before. This is important for the audience as well, as the audience gets the opportunity to have an experience vicariously that they may not have had the chance to do otherwise, perhaps making them more curious about the world they live in.
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3) Did you see any challenges whilst making your short film entry?
E.K. : The feature film was produced off my own bat – largely edited, financed, produced and directed by me over five years. It required a lot of dedication and self-sacrifice to see it through to the end.
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S.H.: We faced quite a few challenges during the process of creating the short film. We had a very low budget for film, which was the root of many of the difficulties we had.

It was also challenging to film outdoors in Melbourne’s temperamental weather. There were days where there were intense storms and hail – not ideal for shooting a soccer film.

Nevertheless, the dedicated cast and crew persistently overcame these challenges to make this film a success.

Creed  “Creed”

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4) Who inspired you to be a filmmaker and why?
E.K.: BBC presenter David Attenborough and is passionate interest in the natural world kindled wonder in me – as well as the drive to help in turn kindle it in others.
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S.H. :My parents inspired me to be a filmmaker through their love of film. Although they are not filmmakers themselves, my parents have encouraged a culture within our family of watching movies together, and discussing them, for as long as I can remember. We wouldn’t only talk about the stories, but the interesting way the films were shot, creative decisions from the director, the music, the acting, the subtle and overt messages and so on and so on. They inspired me to look at film as something powerful and malleable, limitless in its ability to tell a story.
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5) How did you discover the annual Joy House Film Festival and why did you want to enter?
E.K. : Through a friend. I thought the festival would be a wonderful opportunity to help reach a new audience with the film – through the short film format and to film festival attendees. Compared to where it had previously had screened, as a two-part feature documentary on ABC’s Compass program.
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S.H: I discovered the Joy House Film Festival through the FilmFreeway portal. I wanted to enter as I admired the theme of ‘Spreading joy and happiness’. I think that’s important, as the day to day things we see on the television and in other media is often not very positive, and I saw this festival as wanting to change that.

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6) What’s the best thing about the Joy House Film Festival?
E.K.: It’s desire to embrace and celebrate diversity.
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S.H. : The best thing is the opportunities being part of the festival opened us up to. Being part of Joy House Film Festival gave us the opportunity to show our film to a wider audience in Sydney, network and take our film to the next level at the World Film Fair.
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JHFF crowd sitting 2018.jpg
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Joy House Film Festival is held on the Sunday after Father’s Day in September every year.
Spread the JOY! Pay it forward.

Remembering actor John Mahoney

john

When I heard that actor John Mahoney died last week, it felt like a relative had passed away in the family. Mahoney’s warmth and endearing presence on the hit TV show, Frasier, had touched and moved me in the late nineties. I felt a part of me had died when I heard this news. He played Frasier’s father, Martin (Marty) Crane, a retired cop whose character was honest, a down to earth family man, with a big heart and a wonderful captivating laugh.

Along with Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce, who played his sons, Mahoney had driven the Emmy-laden sitcom to its position as one of the highest-rated shows on television at the end of its fifth season. He was remembered alongside Eddie, his beloved dog, who used to constantly stare at Frasier.

My favourite Marty Crane episodes included the one where Frasier tried to replace his old, duct taped chair with a new one and Marty gave a heart felt speech stating that his old chair meant the world to him because of the memories it brought to him of his late wife and when Frasier was born. Another favourite episode was when he mimicked Daphne whining, as she desperately wanted to change her hair style like Princess Di but didn’t. And finally an earlier episode when he had just dyed his hair to look younger for a date and the hair dye was dripping at the back and had left marks on the head rest of a chair and he didn’t want to move because he didn’t want his date to discover he had dyed his hair.

Kelsey.jpg

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT JOHN MAHONEY 

What I didn’t know about Mahoney was that he had a daily mantra. This was revealed in an interview with Francis Guinan, when he talked about his play Rembrandt (in Chicago Tonight). Every day he used to say, “Dear God let me treat everybody, including myself. with love, respect and dignity.” He has said that he wasn’t a religious person but a spiritual one and believed in being “kind and nice as you can be.” It was important for him to be liked, because then he knew that he was fulfilling his mantra.

In the mid 1980’s he suffered from colon cancer (and later lung and throat cancer) and wasn’t able to have sex following a colostomy, so he didn’t want to be involved with anyone because he didn’t want to be a burden, so he chose to be single for the rest of his life. (What a kind, selfless man he was.)

And for the past 20 years, Mahoney spent Christmas at the home of Chicago theatre producers Jane and Bernie Sahlins: “It’s Christmas dinner for Jews and atheists and other alienated people,” says Patinkin, who also attended. “We drink, we sing Christmas carols, we put on silly hats, and we have a really nice time.”

ABOUT JOHN MAHONEY 

John Mahoney was born Charles John Mahoney in Bispham, Blackpool, England (June 20, 1940 – February 4, 2018). He moved to the U.S. in 1959 when his sister Vera agreed to sponsor him and he studied at Quincy University, Illinois. He taught English at Western Illinois University and then served as an editor for a medical journal. Mahoney wasn’t satisfied with his career and so it wasn’t until he was 37 that he started acting. He took acting classes at St. Nicholas Theatre, which inspired him to resign from his day job and pursue acting full-time. It was after a stage production in Chicago in 1977,  when John Malkovich encouraged him to join Steppenwolf Theatre. Mahoney won the Clarence Derwent Award as Most Promising Male Newcomer, then later Broadway‘s Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in John Guare‘s The House of Blue Leaves. His first major film role was in the 1987 for Barry Levinson film Tin Men. He went on to have roles in films in the 1980s and 1990s, including Moonstruck, Eight Men Out, Say Anything…, In the Line of Fire, Reality Bites, and The American President appeared in two Coen brothers films, Barton Fink and The Hudsucker Proxy. He then appeared on Cheers (in a guest role) from which Frasier was a spin off series. Here he made a huge impression on the producers and Kelsey Grammer and was then asked to play Martin Crane on Frasier from 1993 to 2004.

MEMORABLE MAHONEY QUOTES

“I don’t want to be someone people feel they have to take care of and look after and entertain and make sure I’m happy. I can’t stand the thought of that.”

When he was asked about settling down with someone, he said that time has passed. “I just don’t have time for it, to tell you the truth,” Mahoney said. “And I’m of an age now where I think that, closing in on 60, I’m resigned to the fact that a good book and a CD and a glass of Jameson’s is probably going to be my companionship for the rest of my life.”

“The theatre is my brothers, my sisters, my father, my mother, my wife,” Mahoney has said. “It is everything to me.”

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THANK YOU JOHN MAHONEY for the laughs and for the inspiration. You’ll be greatly missed. I’ve learnt a lot from you and may your legacy live on.

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WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM JOHN MAHONEY

It doesn’t matter if you’re 20, 30, or 40, finding the value of being curious about everything you don’t know and following a passion or a hobby (as long as it gives you joy) and taking calculated risks in your life can pay off. As long as you’re happy and true to yourself and show respect to others – that’s the answer to good mental health and longevity.

Also self check – keep a healthy ego by respecting other people and yourself and don’t sweat over the small things in life because life’s too short. We’re all equal after all and part of the human race.

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Photos courtesy of NBC, Frasier, Kelsey Grammer, Michael Brosilow / Steppenwolf Theatre), Dailyovation, Brandon Ramos & Jamie Divecchio Ramsay.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Fabulously Creative with Walter Mason

Walter Mason did a wonderful Fabulously Creative workshop for writers this week at Ashfield library.

Walter Mason main pic

Walter’s first book, Destination Saigon was published at the age of 40 and says, “Anything fabulous can happen at any age in your life!”

He started the workshop with us closing our eyes and we had to think about our intentions for the workshop, “What I want to do is…” and then after a minute or so Walter rang a beautiful sounding bell, reminiscent to the bells you hear at temples. The beautiful sound echoed through the room, I felt like I was being transported into a Buddhist monk retreat.

 

He shared with us “fabulous people” who inspired him as a writer. They include:

  • Rabelais (1483-1553) who came to Walter in a dream and was a writer, monk and Greek scholar. He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, master of crude jokes and songs. He was a monk who often wrote about getting drunk and many other salacious stories. The lesson he learned from him – “Write warmly and take delight in everyday life.” A wonderful Rabelais quote was, “Wisdom can’t enter an unkind heart.” I really love this quote.
  • Ouida (1839-1908) was the pseudonym of the English novelist Maria Louise Ramé. She lived at Langham hotel in London and ran up huge hotel and florist’s bills, and commanded soirees that included soldiers, politicians, literary lights (including Oscar Wilde, Algernon Swinburne, Robert Browning and Wilkie Collins), and artists (including John Millais), “A little scandal is an excellent thing; nobody is ever brighter or happier of tongue than when he is making mischief.” The lesson learned – “Go to the places that inspire you.”
  • Baron Corvo (Frederick Rolfe) (1860-1913) was an English writer, artist, photographer and eccentric. He often carried eccentric and peculiar notebooks and pens and often had a story to tell for everything he had. Lesson: Write extravagantly and with style, and always keep eccentric notebooks.
  • E.F. Benson (1867-1940) An English novelist, biographer, memoirist and represented England at figure skating. He was a precocious and prolific writer, publishing his first book while still a student. Principally known for the Mapp and Lucia series about Emmeline “Lucia” Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp. Lesson: “Observe the world minutely and always look for stories in people and the places you encounter each day.
  • Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) was a British poet and critic and the eldest of the three literary Sitwells. She often spent one day of the week in bed! She had an ostentatious style due to her costumes and was an outrageous person, born with a twisted spine. Lesson: “Be noteworthy.”
  • Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) was an English poet, novelist and garden designer. Lesson: “Cherish every moment in life and write about it. There is never a perfect time-all stages of life are worth celebrating.”
  • Elinor Glyn (1864-1945) was a British novelist and scriptwriter who specialised in romantic fiction which was considered scandalous during her time. Lesson: “Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze.”

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We then did some fabulous writing activities. They include the following:

  • 50 words – CREATIVE BLURB ABOUT YOU

Walter asked us to write a 50 words blurb about ourselves within 5 minutes. There was however one other small restriction placed onto us, and that was that we had to include one special word – one that was pulled out from his blue bag filled with typed words. My special word was, DROP!

So I wrote – Joy Hopwood’s a creative who works in the arts and entertainment industry. She founded the Joy House Film Festival and does creative kids workshops in schools as part of her “Kindness is for Free” workshops, an anti-bullying and racism initiative, with her DROP dead gorgeous Wong Side of Life puppets.

We all read out our blurbs and some other people had to include words such as “damage,” “bang,” “bake,” “pumpkin,” “chase” and so on.

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  • RECALLING YOUR WRITER MOMENT

We then had to write down a time in our lives that made us think we were writers.

I recalled a time in year 7, at school, when our class had to write down procedures of looking after our pets. I wrote about my pet goldfish and at the end of my story I wrote, “This is how I look after my goldfish, even though he died last week!” After reading it out loud, the classroom erupted into laughter and my teacher said, “I always enjoy reading your work Joy, because of the honesty and humour you put in your stories. Your stories often put a smile on my face.” This was the first moment in my life that I thought I could be a writer.

  • WRITE DOWN YOUR FEARS

Walter made us all address our fears and told us of an incident when one writing teacher told her class to get their names printed on business cards with one word job description underneath – “WRITER.” This affirmation made the class think differently about themselves. One of my favourite activities was when we all had to draw a vertical line in the centre of our pages and write down our fears on the left side and then a positive counteraction on the other side. For example on one side of the page I wrote, “My writing is untidy,” and on the right side of the column I wrote, “My writing is neat,” and so on. After everyone wrote down their lists of fears we were then instructed to tear off and throw away our fears and have our positive affirmations displayed near our computers or writing place. Walter stressed that it does matter how we talk to ourselves and that he once completed a 12-step programme of, “Fake it until you make it!”

  • FLASH FICTION

Writing and telling a story in 300 words is called flash fiction. By starting the story off with the action makes the story immediate and dynamic. Many flash fiction stories omit the set up of the story, and just went straight to the action.

For example, “My bird flew out of hands and dived into a world of the unknown…” or “He walked out on me after I confessed…” and so on.

  • PROMPT BOX

Walter told us about Twyla Tharp’s prompt box. Tharp is a dancer and choreographer who’s produced over 130 dances and ballets over the last 40 years. She believes that creativity can be learned and implemented for the world to savour and enjoy and often uses the “prompt box” technique. Twyla Tharp explains her filing organisation/ creativity project started system: “I start every dance with a box. I write the project name on the box, and as the piece progresses I fill it up with every item that went into the making of the dance. This means notebooks, news clippings, CDs, videotapes of me working alone in my studio, videos of the dancers rehearsing, books and photographs and pieces of art that may have inspired me. he box makes me feel organized, that I have my act together even when I don’t know where I’m going yet. It also represents a commitment. The simple act of writing a project name on the box means I’ve started work.”

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  • CREATIVE SHOPPING BAGS

Walter also told us about his creative teacher, Jan Cornwall who has “creative shopping bags.” Each bag holds items that inspire the writing process. Walter said that his teacher has one bag titled – My memoir, another – My creativity and so on. This is another wonderful creative idea for story and writing stimulation.

Like myself, Walter has journals. He says journal writing stimulates a part of our brain into action. By writing one page a day, in bullet points is a great start; you can use it for articles or for writing a book. To conclude the workshop we wrote down our future dazzling successes, in five years time.

I asked Walter what gives him joy in his life and he replied, “It gives me joy doing the thing I want to do. It gives me joy helping other people, realising and reaching their dreams. I get really excited when I see other people doing something they want to do and if I can help them in any way it really thrills me. It gives me joy being with people I love and it gives me joy to be loved in return. It gives me joy that I have done something that makes someone happy.”

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Walter has two books published, Destination Saigon and Destination Cambodia, I strongly recommend them. He writes with great passion and humour. He has a few talks and workshops coming up. Here’s the link http://www.waltermason.com

Enjoy!

Interview with Alex Lykos (Alex and Eve the movie)

Alex Lykos grew up in Australia. In the early 1990s he won a tennis scholarship at the Western Kentucky University. Lykos continued playing tennis at a professional level until returning to Australia in 1999. He then began writing film and play scripts, and in 2006 formed the Bulldog Theatre Company. Alex wrote several successful stage plays including Alex and Eve, Better man, A Long Night and It’s War. Last week I interviewed this successful, multitalented, yet humble actor / writer whose work is to be commended because his stories and selection of cast always reflect diversity in modern Australia.

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1) When you were growing up in Australia who were your role models?

Actually, when I was growing up I was as far removed from the arts as possible. I used to play tennis and my idols were Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander and Michael Chang…Once I got into the arts, I admired the work of Woody Allen and Cameron Crowe.

2) What made you want to break into Australian Theatre / TV / Film?

When I finished playing tennis, I was at a crossroads. I was a bit cheeky in school so I thought, at the ripe old age of 28, why not do an acting course. I found I enjoyed it. In the meantime, all the photos I took while I was in America, I placed in an album and wrote little bits about each photo. I found I enjoyed that and then proceeded to write a story about my time in America…which by the way I read again, about 6 months ago and is by the worst screenplay in history!!!

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3) What motivated and inspired you to write Alex and Eve the play and then the movie?

I had watched several romantic comedies and they all came from a the female’s perspective. SO I wanted to write a story which explored the angst a mid 30s male has in trying to find somebody. Then I had met someone from a different religious background and thought, mm, that might be interesting to explore. Put the two ideas together and Alex & Eve was born.

4) Do you see a positive change to colourblind casting in Australian film/ TV / Stage & do you incorporate this in your writing & casting?
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I actually am starting to see that there is a bit more of an effort to cast CALD actors. Its a process and hopefully films like Alex & Eve, UnIndian and televisions shows The Principal will continue to aid in the changing of the guard so to speak.
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5) What changes do you want to see happen in the entertainment industry?
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There are all kinds of changes that I would like to see happen. More of  a focus on Australian content across theatre, TV and film would be great.
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6) Alex and Eve the movie is coming out in October, what do you want audiences to take away from this movie?

If the audience goes away smiling having had a good time and perhaps have a bit of a think about their own views about people not from their ethnic background, then I would be pleased.

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Alex and Eve is in cinemas on October 22, 2015.

                                         ABOUT ALEX AND EVE

ALEX AND EVE is based on the hit stage play by Alex Lykos, who also wrote the screenplay and was produced by Murray Fahey. The original stage play was first performed in Sydney in 2006, since then over 35,000 people have seen productions of the play in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Alex and Eve is directed by Peter Andrikidis and stars Richard Brancatisano and Andrea Demetriades as star crossed lovers whose parents forbid them to marry. Alex is a handsome school teacher in his mid thirties and his parents want him to marry a good Greek girl. Alex falls hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Eve, a lawyer, whose parents are Lebanese Muslim. Like oil and water, the two should never mix, only how can they stop themselves from falling in love?

Executive Producers Martin Cooper, Bill Kritharas and Producer Murray Fahey secured finance for the production in 2014. Filming commenced June 2014 and took place over five weeks in Canterbury, Lakemba, Glebe, Haberfield, Homebush, the Rocks, Croydon, Belmore, Auburn, and Leichhardt.

ALEX AND EVE is a family comedy about dating in modern day multicultural Australia.

Photos and Alex and Eve synopsis courtesy of Alex and Eve the movie.

http://alexandeve.com.au/

“Colourblind Casting Prevails” (Joy’s interview with Tony Ayres in this month’s MEAA magazine)

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Interview with Remy Hii (Marco Polo, Better Man, Neighbours)

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Remy Hii is an Australian actor. He attended the National Institute of Dramatic Art for three years and appeared in various theatre productions before being cast in television. Hii starred as Van Tuong Nguyen in the miniseries Better Man and was cast as Hudson Walsh in the soap opera Neighbours in 2013 and currently starring in Marco Polo. Hii was born to a Chinese-Malaysian father and an English mother. His early theatre work was with The Emerge Project an arm of Switchboard Arts. There he performed in a number of original productions in Brisbane by local playwrights between 2005 and 2007. From 2009 to 2011 he attended the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney where he graduated in 2011. I was lucky to interview Remy who’s currently filming for Marco Polo.

1) When you were growing up who were your role models on Australian TV &    Film?

I actually grew up as a young kid in Papua New Guinea; we didn’t have television reception out there so my grandparents in Sydney would send out the TV guides from back home, and I’d highlight the shows I wanted to be taped, and they would mail back VHS tapes for us to watch. Gary Sweet in Police Rescue was a pretty big part of my life back then. Sadly looking back to my younger years, I don’t recall there being many faces of colour on our screens to look up to.

2) What made you want to break into Australian TV / Film?

I’ve always been motivated to succeed in this industry, as an artist, to be able to tell stories that excite me and in turn excite others. To get people passionate about Australian stories again. My friends and I always bemoan the often heard line “It was good… for an Australian film”. Somewhere along the line our storytelling stopped connecting with the audience: it stopped reflecting the country that many of us are living in; and yet there is a strong push now for new voices to be heard and that is something I want to be a part of.

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3) How did you get started in your career?

A fantastic co-op theatre company in Brisbane run by Dr. Errol Bray allowed me to hone my craft as a young actor and recognise the importance of new writing in Australia. It was through performing there that I was asked to audition for a new play at the Queensland Theatre Company – The Estimatorwritten by David Brown. It won the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award in 2006 and I was playing the title role to sold out shows for an extended season. It was a wonderful induction into the industry, and cemented for me the idea that perhaps there was a place for me as an actor in Australia.

Coming from theatre in Brisbane, Film and Television seemed like this unattainable and mysterious thing. I found myself being sent for roles like Asian Gambler in East West 101, Asian Nerd in The Strip, and Asian Ladyboy in SeaPatrol. It wasn’t until I graduated from NIDA that other options started opening up for me, and chances to play interesting characters who were more than their skin colour or racial stereotype started to present themselves. Looking back, I’m kind of glad I never got the part(s).

4) Do you see a positive change to colour blind casting in Australian TV / Film and Theatre?

This is a really tough question to answer, as I can only speak from personal experience and sometimes it seems like we’ve really made it and sometimes it feels like we’re back living in the 50’s. I think we are making baby steps towards a place that  reflects the wonderful variety that is our nation. It’s slow, and there’s a long way to go but television is no longer the same as when I was young and diversity on our screens meant the other variations of white like Greek and Italian.

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5) What changes would you like to see in the TV & Film industry?

More risks. Some of our countries greatest runaway hits have come from projects that the commercial networks would recoil from. Shows like The Slap, Please Like Me and Redfern Now have all found success and audiences here and overseas, and they refused to be safe – from casting to themes and subject matter. Rather than being afraid of what makes us different, we should be embracing it.

6) What more do you want to achieve in the future?

I feel like I’ve barely even begun! I’ve been working for the last few months on the second season of Netflix’s Marco Polo. It’s a very big budget, action heavy production requiring hundreds of actors and extras, hours and hours of physical training, fight choreography and punishing hours on set. It’s an incredibly rewarding process, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it, but I’m looking forward to coming back home and getting back to the theatre. Just a stage and that magic connection between the actor and the audience.

Photos courtesy of Remy Hii and Australians in Film 

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