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)

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

 

 

 

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