Simon Chan has a Graduate Diploma and Masters of Music from QUT and has worked for La Boite, the Queensland Theatre Company, Metro Arts, and acted in a number of films (including the feature The Real Macaw and the short Karaoke King with Anna Yen, directed by Carine Chai which was screened at the Asian Australian Occasion Short Film Festival curated by AAFFN’s Indigo Willing in 2007).
Chan has also been a theatre critic, and has presented with his creation The Other Production Company musical productions including The Velveteen Rabbit which has enjoyed international attention and a number of overseas invitations, as well as I Must Stop Looking At Men, and Closer To Heaven, a musical by Jonathan Harvey and the Pet Shop Boys, at the Brisbane Powerhouse. In 2007. Chan has also presented in association with Chris Maver Productions and the Judith Wright Centre cabaret material such as Gaysian in The Fruit Tingle Cabaret.
In 2012, Simon was approached by Brad Rush, producer at the Arts Centre Gold Coast, to create an original revue of his musical song works. The result was Rice & Easy, a cabaret of Simon’s songs with The Space transformed into a working Chinese Restaurant.
In 2013, Simon is working on a comedy revue of songs from spy films, called From Asia With Love, with Matt Ward (Chess, The Production Company, 2012) and Kimie Tsukakoshi (Miss Saigon, Savoyards, 2012). It will be presented by The Other Production Company in April/May.
Chris Raja migrated to Melbourne from Calcutta in 1986, and almost twenty years later he moved again, further inland, to Alice Springs. An English and History teacher at St Philip’s College in Alice Springs, Chris was co-guest consultant editor of Meanjin’s Australasian issue in 2004 and since then has been a regular contributor to Quadrant, Southerly and Art Monthly Australia. His short story ‘After the Wreck’ was adapted for radio and broadcast on ABC Radio National’s Short Story Program in 2007. His play ‘Drew’s Seizure’ was performed at Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs in2009. Chris worked as the NT Correspondent for Art Monthly Australia from 2010 to 2011. He and his actor wife Natasha co-wrote ‘The First Garden’ with the assistance of a grant from Arts NT which premiered as part of the Alice Desert Festival inSeptember 2011. Chris has been selected for the Australian Society of Authors 2011/2012 mentorship program.
Synopsis of ‘The First Garden’ -
Olive Pink (1884 -1975) was a botanical illustrator, anthropologist, gardener and a trailblazing Aboriginal land rightsactivist and environmentalist. In October 1956, at the age of 72, Olive Pink set up her tent on the grounds of what is now the Olive Pink Botanic Garden and from this tranquil location she vigorously lobbied Northern Territory politicians to establish a Flora Reserve to protect native flora and provide a site where locals could visit and learnabout desert environments. ‘The First Garden’ is her story. The story of a woman who took no prisoners in her quest to develop her life’s dream; it is also the story of how diverse cultures have valuable lessons for each other.
How has your journeying from Calcutta to Melbourne, and then from Melbourne to Alice, influenced your creative practices?
When I was eleven, I moved from Calcutta to Australia. I am deeply connected to India and Australia and have used my artistic perspective to tell stories that deal with each country’s national psyche. Olive Pink is my subject for Australia and Indira Gandhi is my Indian subject.
In 2004 I moved to Alice Springs and found out about the trail blazing land rights activist, anthropologist, botanist, Olive Pink and her Warlpiri gardener Johnny Tjampitjinpa. For me this is one of the great Australian stories.
Living in the middle of the oldest continent on Earth, amongst the oldest tribal people, I have become interested in deep time. I have come to realise that the history of Australia is largely unwritten, misunderstood and swept under the carpet. Have we been emphasising the wrong history? I can’t believe that all the “Indigenous” Australians came from Africa via India at about the same time. There are so many marked differences between the different language groups in Australia.
The Warlpiri, Arrernte, Anangu people of the central Australian desert that I speak to remember the Indians, Pakistanis and Afghans and acknowledge how tough they were. By and large, it was because of the Indian, Pakistan and Afghan Cameleers and their Camels that the centre of Australia was penetrated. I live on Mohamed Street. When I tell my Indian family this, they are invariably amused: Mohammed Street? In Alice Springs? Who would have thought?
What was the experience of co-editing the Australasian issue of Meanjin like?
The experience of co-editing the Australasian issue of Meanjin in 2004 was wonderful and a real honour. It introduced me to a literary world. I got to read what other writers were writing about. I was mentored by Ian Britain and I learned the importance of good, clear writing. It made me curious to find out more about Australia. So straight after that issue, within a matter of weeks, I packed up and went to live in the desert, to work and live amongst Australia’s Indigenous people.
Is the work of Asian Australian creative practitioners (on screen, and in other mediums such as theatre and writing) getting enough attention in what we colloquially refer to as ‘mainstream Australia’?
Over time, I have come to realise that Australia and India are connected in much deeper ways than I could ever imagine. I’ve come across a number of stories that explore this.
The links and tensions in the Australian Indian relationship can be understood in many ways. The Indo Australia tectonic plate is an illustration of this. The Indo-Australian Plate is a major tectonic plate that includes the continent of Australia and surrounding ocean, and extends northwest to include the Indian subcontinent and adjacent waters. The large crustal plate includes the continent of Australia and the sub-continent of India but recent studies, and seismic events suggest that the Indo-Australian Plate may be in the process of breaking up into two separate plates due primarily to stresses induced by the collision of the Indo-Australian Plate with Eurasia along the Himalayas. The Indian subcontinent, Meganesia (Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania), New Zealand, and New Caledonia are all fragments of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana that once dominated the world. Seafloor spreading separated these land masses from one another, but as the spreading centres became inactive, the land masses fused into a single plate.
It’s more than a hundred million years since Australia broke away from Gondwana. But by this time all kinds of plants and animals were well established. No other continent has stayed as isolated as Australia. Accordingly, this land literally became a life boat, a Noah’s ark for various plants and animals. Life in Australia evolved in a most distinct way for over a hundred million years. Isolation saved many ancient species including marsupials. Even today this isolation has its impacts and expression in various ways.
The Aboriginal people have been in Australia for a very long time. When they arrived is a mystery that is still not solved. Aboriginal culture and art stretches way back into prehistory. When Aboriginal people paint, they express ideas and traditions that go back many thousands of years but these secrets are kept and understood only within the initiated. In rock shelters, secrets were kept. Some of this art or history is so old and mysterious some people believe these secrets were made not by mortals but by spirits. This knowledge is sometimes referred to as the Jukurrpa. Jukurrpa (pronounced joo-kur-pa) is the Warlpiri spelling of the word which is often translated as Dreaming, Story or Law amongst Central Australian desert groupings or clans.
Curiously, the Indo Australia plate is undergoing stress and scientists believe it is going to rupture. The plate upon which Australia rests, extending from New Zealand all the way to the Himalayan ranges – is going to rupture and break in two, changing the very face of the Earth as we know it. 150 million years, when Australia was part of the southern super-continent Gondwana, the birth of the Indo-Australia plate occurred as Australia and India started to move northwards, away from Antarctica, breaking Gondwana apart. They joined to form the Indo-Australian plate we know today, which continues to push northward at six and a half centimetres a year. This event created enormous mountain ranges as it moved north interacting with the plates further north: the Himalayas, New Guinea, Timor, and also New Zealand off to the east.
Naturally, in the same way that the plate undergoes stress from time to time, connections between the two countries are strained from time to time. When I consider recent events such as student bashings or television shows such as ‘Dumb, Drunk and Racist’, I get embarrassed. Australia and India are old and great civilisations. They have deep links geographically and historically and I am proud to be a part of both.
How did you and your wife, Natasha Raja, get interested in writing the story of Olive Pink?
We feel ‘The First Garden’ is a unique, important story that helps explain Australia and its past, and where we as a nation finds ourselves now, better than many other stories we have encountered to date. We hope this simple story will contribute to the national narrative in a way that entertains and educates.
What are your hopes for ‘The First Garden’, and other upcoming projects?
So far I have been involved in trying to understand Territory Nomads, Olive Pink and her Warlpiri gardener, and in my upcoming novel, ‘The Burning Elephant’ I have tried to look at the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
‘The First Garden’ is published by Currency Press. My book, ‘The Burning Elephant’ starts with the assassination of Indira Gandhi and it is completely set in India; however, it is about a family’s journey to Australia. I used this national catastrophe to tell a smaller, more personal story.
You might not expect Olive Pink and Indira Gandhi to be comparable subjects, but for me they reflect a narrative that defines each of their countries. But there is so much more that I am keen to explore. I want to find out more about the Afghan stories and indeed the deeper historical, geographical and scientific connections between the two countries.
Interview with Chris Raja by AAFFN’s Sukhmani Khorana
Aileen Huynh is a Sydney based Actor. She graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) Acting course in 2010. She also holds a Bachelor of Creative Arts in Performance from the University of Wollongong. In her solo pursuits she works under the title and persona George Dot Play, producing video works that merge her screen performance with digital technology. Recent works include Emotibeats, Got Rice and Eargasm. In 2011 she worked with Bodysnatchers and debuted her one woman show, Gobbledygook. Other recent Acting credits include A Land Beyond the River (Bondi Pavilion), A Quiet Night in Rangoon (New Theatre), Colour of Change directed by Pearl Tan (Joyhouse Productions) and Better Man (Fremantle Media).
Tell us a bit about what is George Dot Play and where folks can see this project?
George Dot Play is the title and persona I go by in the cyber world. I make short videos of myself attempting to look really cool with editing techniques and dropping funky beats. (Hopefully, it occasionally works!). It’s hard to explain, but you can see for yourself on the crazy, wonderful world of YouTube. My channel is at http://www.youtube.com/georgedotplay.
What are some of the things you loved about working on this project?
I love working on George Dot Play because it gives me the ability to completely run wild with my creativity. From my imagination I can make it reality, although, a lot of the time it turns out quite different from what I first set out to do, but that’s all part of the fun! I have also loved learning new digital techniques, which has widened my skills and has allowed me to make some really cool stuff!
What is the advantage of videos and the Internet to reach audiences?
One of the initial reasons why I started George Dot Play was because of the opportunities and benefits being online have. Immediately anyone around the world can see your work with a click. Being an Actor with an Asian background I also feel like the Internet is the right platform for me to try and find a wider, culturally diverse audience. However there are also some tough hurdles. With the online world becoming increasingly popular there is so much content being uploaded everyday. 72 hours of video are being uploaded to YouTube every minute! You can easily get lost in the crowd.
You also were filming for Khoa Do’s ‘Better Man’? What was your role and what is it like working in the more traditional format of TV?
‘Better Man’ is a four-part mini-series, which will air on SBS later this year. It is based on the story of convicted drug trafficker Van Nguyen, who was the last Australian to be executed on death row. I play the role of Kelly, one of Van’s close friends. Working on the format of TV is wonderful. You see all the puzzle pieces join together. There are so many people on set with different jobs and you’re employed to just focus on your job- to act. It’s very different to working on George Dot Play where you’re the actor, director, cameraman, editor, publicist etc all at the same time, but that’s what makes your creative work so satisfying, cause of all the blood, sweat (and sometimes tears) that have gone into it. It’s lovely though when a job (that’s also paid!) comes along and you can just focus on your performance, plus you always meet some wonderful people along the way.
You are also an artist in residence at Waverly Council. How do such opportunities assist artist like yourself and what project are you working on there?
Being an artist in residence with Waverley Council provides a great support network and some valuable resources to help produce your artistic work. They help you promote your work, give you contact and networking opportunities and supply you with a studio to work in for six months. All extremely useful tools for emerging artists like myself. I’m using the residency to work on new George Dot Play videos and my business strategies. Currently I’m working on an open call project called ‘The Bondi Groove’. So come down, join the party and be in one of my videos! Anyone and everyone is welcome! Details are here: George Dot Play The Bondi Groove
You are a recent Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) grad. What are some of the best experiences you’ve drawn from that?
There are so many great memories and experiences I’ll take away from WAAPA. There may not be another time in my life where I will be able to focus so closely on the craft of performance like I did when I was there. I was very lucky to work on so many shows, be cast in roles that I will most likely never play in the ‘real world’, and learn lots of useful things to make me a better performer. At WAAPA you also make working and personal relationships that will last a lifetime.
Who are some of the people who have helped you along the way to where you are now and where you want to head?
There are many people who have helped shaped my choices as an artist and help me keep pursing my goals- A lot of close friends, colleagues, lecturers, and teachers. There have also been a number of people who I’ve met in random circumstances, who have ended up advocating my work and have been such valuable assets in the movements of my career. You never know where these people will spring from!
What is one of your dream projects?
I have so many dream projects I would love to be working on- Oh, lets say a role in a David Fincher, Tarantino or Paul Thomas Anderson film (have to start with the bar raised high right?), working with Freddie W on an online film, touring the world with a stage show. Gotta keep those dream options open!
Any final advice for young people out there planning to be filmmakers?
If you feel an absolute need to do it and there is no other choice, then do it. If you feel you could put your ambitions elsewhere and be just as happy…. well that might not be a bad idea. Could definitely help financially!
Interview with Aileen Huynh by AAFFN’s Indigo Willing.
The Boat – Synopsis
Somchay Phakonkham is an award winning Laotian-Australian film director from Melbourne, who has directed countless short films and music videos. He has also worked on several independent feature films such as “Little Black Dress” and “Eraser Children”.
In the short span of his career he has won several awards including the Silver Screen Award for Best Short Film at the Nevada Film Festival in 2012 for his latest project ‘The Boat’.
He is now moving onto directing feature films and has his eyes set on the golden statue.
1. The Boat takes a different turn from some of your earlier work. Whereas you mostly did comedies with Youcake Productions, the first short film from your new production company ReInvent Films is a serious drama. What kinds of new things can you learn from adding new genres to your range and body of work?
I found that working on a genre such as drama demands more from your actors emotionally; they are required to go to a darker place within themselves to bring out the right emotion for the scenes. As the director I have to create an environment that allows them to go there, without them being afraid, which will help bring out a more genuine performance.
However both genres demands different things from your actors, whether it’s having great comedic timing or hitting the right emotion tone, they are both hard in their own ways.
I also found that in comedy there are a lot of improvisations which usually ends up being what’s in the scene. Whereas on a drama, improvisation becomes a great directing tool to help actor tap into their subconscious mind if they are having mental block.
2. There is a very poignant, lyrical feel to The Boat, while clearly being grounded in the lives of some very stoic, Anglo-Australian men. Your actors reveal a number of inner layers involved with how some males in a father and son dynamic struggle to relate to each other. How did you choose (find) your actors and what was it like directing them?
For this project, you could say I cast the roles by personality types, meaning if the role of a character was very quiet and introverted, then I would try and cast someone as close to that personality as possible. I personally find that you get more natural performances this way. But of course this technique can change from project to project.
Secondly I cast them based on suitability, whether they’re suited to play the role and how they fitted amongst the rest of the cast. In my case, it was the trouble of trying to match a father and son together that would be believable.
Directing both, Jeremy Kewley, and James Schaw was a great pleasure and a huge learning experience. Jeremy Kewley who has been in the industry for a number of years brought a lot of his own experience and ideas to the story which help cultivate the character he portrayed as Walter.
New Zealand actor James Schaw who is fairly new to the industry brought a lot of innocence into his character, which really helped mould the role of Finn.
Both actors were extremely professional, they gave me what I wanted and more. I think I was very fortunate to have these two amazing actors for the project and I couldn’t ask for a better pair.
3. How difficult was it filming outdoors in the open water?
Lol I think my cast and crew can tell you how difficult it was filming in the open water.
I’d say it is pretty tricky for anyone who wishes to film outdoors in the open water, because you have all these other elements that are not within your control. Such as the tides, the sun, clouds, winds and the sound of the waves constantly crashing into your boat, but I think we were extremely lucky that day. The weather held out, the waves weren’t too strong and we managed to block most of the wind from nearby rocks. So we didn’t experience too many hiccups which are always a good thing.
I think you just need good planning and preparation, and just be prepared for any conditions you may encounter and don’t be afraid to get wet hahaha
4. Tell me about your co-producer, who is also an Asian Australian. How did you come across his own work and how you came to collaborate together?
Thai Phuong is a Chinese-Australian actor who moved to LA to pursue his acting career. He has been in numerous TV shows, feature films, and has recently completed a film with director John Sayles on a project called ‘Go for Sisters’. He is also one of the main stars in the new anime-flavoured, sci-fi ‘The New Kind’, taking on the role of ‘Giant’.
I have been a fan of his work ever since high school when he was just starting out doing school plays, and we have always been interested in collaborating with each other.
As a co-producer on ‘THE BOAT’ he has brought a lot of his own experiences as an actor to help oversee the end product from an actor’s perspective, which really helped allow the film to showcase the outstanding performances given by our talented actors.
5. What’s next?
Right now I’m currently developing a story with American actor/writer Han Tran. All I can tell you is that it’s a sad love story, so you’ll just have to wait and see lol.
I’m also on the lookout for new scripts and writers to work with. So if you have a script or you’re a writer who would like to collaborate on an idea, don’t be afraid to get in touch.
Phakonkham was a panel speaker and screened one of his short films at our inaugural AAFFN 2011 event in Melbourne, and was interviewed in Peril’s special issue on AAFFN. We look forward to keeping an eye out on his ever growing range of films and achievements in 2013.
Interview by AAFFN’s Indigo Willing.
An AAFFN interview with Khanh Trieu
With a move to LA and Hollywood on the horizon, the AAFFN focuses on the rising career of Khanh Trieu, a performing artist with experience and training in acting, modeling, music, martial arts and fight choreography. His background is Vietnamese Australian, and he has played a range of ethnicities and characters in short films, TV shows, web series and commercials. Asia Look Talent and Model Management describes Trieu as “one of our more valuable talent assets” due to “talent he has and this, combined with a willing and passionate approach to varied and eclectic assignments”. A hard worker with a natural and interesting, memorable stage presence, he studied acting at the Australian Academy of Dramatic Arts, earning a $7000 scholarship towards one year of study at the New York Film Academy. He also holds Bachelor of Laws and Commerce degrees, and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. Well known and well liked throughout the arts community, Trieu provides his time and support to a range of creative and community projects emerging within the Asian Australian community and beyond.
Trieu recently co-starred with David Field in the short film, Convenience which was part of the official selection of shorts to screen at the Busan International Film Festival in October 2012. He also had a role as a fight choreographer in Australia’s Next Top Model 2011, hosted by Sarah Murdoch, where Trieu instructed contestants on choreography he designed, while also drawing on his experience as a model. His TV work includes the Australian series Housos and Headland, and his recognition has continued to rise with the release of MTV EXIT’s music film clip “This Song Saved My Life” which was released across 168 countries on all MTV platforms.
Q1: One of your achievements is your range, whether it be comedy, drama or action, commercial or art house, you are seamless in the way you integrate into the story the way directors aim, yet make each role your own. I’ve seen you play tough man, tender guy and funny as hell. Tell me a bit more about these contrasts. What have been some of your favourite, and more diverse roles?
Diversity is a principle to which I live my life by and encourage others to do similarly because as the saying goes, variety is the spice of life and I’d like to experience as much as possible in my lifetime. Consequently, as an actor, I’ve found myself applying that principle in choosing a wide range of characters to portray. It’s both more interesting, and technically challenging, which is important to my development as an artist.
A few of my favourite roles include playing a Japanese celebrity in short film Bars and Tone, a Thai terrorist in TV show Housos and a Japanese chef in upcoming TV commercial ‘Legendary Suitjamas’. Each role differed in background and personality but were equally exciting to perform. Learning the script language was also quite challenging but as they say you’re not making any real progress until you’re put out of your comfort zone.
Q2. It takes hard work to do what you do, but also there’s numerous rewards. What are some of these you can reflect on when looking back at your most recent projects you’ve worked on?
Moving on from project to project I’ve managed to gain more exposure and recognition as a professional actor which is one of the things I’ve strived for since day one. However, I’ve come to realise more important things like being selfless in helping other performers find work and how important it is to develop and maintain professional relationships with everyone I meet or get to work with. The benefits in doing so may not come right away but one day in the future your present actions will come back to either help you or bite you on the ass. I know because I’ve learnt the hard way!
Q3: There’s this ongoing thing with beer ads right now to have a more diverse cast of ‘blokes’. Usually an Asian. This is great, not because the AAFFN have a secret deal with a brewery promoting beer drinking or rampant masculinity that dictates any link between beverages and genders, but because it’s typically seen as an iconic Aussie past time. It’s a big deal to see Asian faces normalized in the context of BBQs and beers, rather than just woks and sake. How did that role come about and what was the shoot like in terms of performing a ‘bloke with beer’?
I think the role you’re referring to is my part in a TV commercial for cricket team Sydney Thunder’s mascot Maximus Thunder, in which I hold a stubby of beer standing around a BBQ.
The role came about through a casting website called Starnow. Basically I applied for the role online and was cast by the production company, Kontented. The shoot was a lot of fun and flowed quite smoothly. All cast and crew got along really well and the director was able to nurture natural performances out of the cast. It was one of the most pleasant sets I’ve ever worked on! I think they made a nice decision to cast an Asian bloke in the ad, maybe for demographic reasons or maybe they were simply being open minded. Either way it was a positive decision that reflected a forward thinking group of professionals. Thanks Kontented! [Note also see Trieu in a Wild Turkey ad, bourbon being another realm where Asian faces haven't always been commonly cast].
Q4: As Asian Australians, we all know the casting opportunities available out there have often been restricted to stereotypes of being drug dealers, and all round general evil people. These roles are actually good dramatic opportunities and do reflect a certain part of the social world and a range of stories well worth telling, yet there is also various other roles that Asian Australians could and should play. What’s the attitude you take in when you are cast to play a ‘stereotypical’ role to make the most of the performance and make it interesting?
Well first of all beggars can’t be choosers, so if I get cast into a stereotypical role, and I have been, I’d just go ahead and do it to the best of my ability especially if there’s a paycheque attached. Work is work. Performing as a drug dealer, terrorist, kung fu bad guy, thug, karaoke singer, boat person and a crazy chef has been a great deal of fun and technically challenging. The good thing about stereotypical roles is that there’s already a blueprint for you to go by to base your own performance on.
What I bring to the table to make things interesting are my own idiosyncrasies, nuances, quirkiness and in your face attitude. But then again when required to I’d exert these characteristics whether the role is a stereotypical one or not.
I don’t mind playing the stereotypical roles because I take the view that they won’t be and haven’t been the only roles I’ll play. I don’t see it as being racist because these roles or characters actually exist in life. Some less stereotypical roles I’ve played include a doctor, bank manager, employee, patient, boyfriend and school bully. I’m positive the future of Australian film and TV will be more reflective and receptive to Asian Australian experiences.
Q5: What kinds of roles and films do you see out there for Asian Australians that are pushing the boundaries for our community, and possibly breaking the barriers?
Films by Khoa Do. Khoa’s Footy Legends is a good example, although I’m not sure how successful it was in breaking barriers but it certainly tried to.
There are films and roles out there for Asians, but they don’t necessarily reflect Asian Australian experiences e.g Sue Brooks’ Japanese Story and Bruce Beresford’s Mao’s Last Dancer.
Ang Lee’s films like Pushing Hands, The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman certainly pushed cultural barriers but they’re not uniquely Australian stories.
Q6: Martial arts has been a huge influence to you. It looks cool, but behind the style and ease with which you execute the moves, it takes hard work! How have you developed your style and felt you’ve been able to showcase it best?
I have over 15 years experience in martial arts training including kickboxing, ninjutsu, karate, kung fu and Filipino stick fighting. The most prominent school I attended was the International Cultural and Martial Arts Shinbukan in Lane Cove. For the first 10 years I trained heavily with a daily routine and I used to train to the point of exhaustion. I don’t do that anymore! Over the past 6 years due to the people I’ve met or worked with on films and TV productions I’ve learnt new things and refined my techniques. These days I only train 2-3 days a week, not because I’m lazy but because there has been a definite shift in focus and action to dramatic and comedic performances which I spend more time practising and developing.
Stylistically I have been influenced by Bruce Lee, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa.
I think my best showcase was in September 2012 filming a series of promo clips for Foxtel Channel V Music Oz Artist 2012. I got to choreograph and perform multiple fight sequences in a boxing ring setting with a fusion of kung fu, kickboxing and wrestling styles. It was an amazing shoot working with a team of talented performers and crew.
Q7: You have worked with many people in the Australian acting, film and TV community. What’s the general vibe like when local folks want to go work overseas in places like Hollywood and other places in the USA? Much support and buzz?
It’s well known that LA as opposed to any other American city, is one of the biggest film hubs in the world. I know quite a few Sydney actors who have made the move to LA with varying degrees of success. A couple of actresses have managed to score regular TV gigs on popular US shows and have set themselves up. Most however go over to check things out or come back realising they need to do more before going back.
Personally, it’s a new thing for me. A friend of mine went for 5 weeks September-October 2012 and came back sharing a lot of industry info which was highly valuable and essentially planted the idea in me to make the move to LA in 2013. Since December 2012, I’ve been preparing and collecting documentation required to support my O1B visa application which I’ve yet to lodge. I’m currently waiting on three more letters of recommendation from producers before giving my US lawyer the go ahead. The move to LA is contingent on getting this visa, so fingers crossed!
Q8: No one lives in a vacuum, we all have influences and people who inspire us to get out there and do our thing. Who have some of those people been for you (famous and/or non-famous)?
Bruce Lee has been a significant influence on me as a human being and accordingly as an actor. He was a child actor, a Cha Cha champion, a philosophy student at University and an inventor of a martial arts style. Looking back to my childhood, I would have to say that if my dad had never introduced me to Bruce Lee films and films in general, I don’t think I’d be an actor today. It isn’t because he was the greatest actor – it’s more to do with what he symbolised and stood for. He used to say ‘Let no limitation be your limitation’ – that blew my mind back then and still does to this day! Likewise, the way he looked physically left a permanent mark. I’ve been wanting an abdominal six pack for years!
My Dad also had an important part to play in my exposure to the entertainment industry. It was because of him that I immersed myself in films most days/nights as a young boy. He used to hire heaps of movies from the local video store and bring them home to watch, it was all there was to do apart from playing backyard cricket, growing up in country town Warwick Queensland. My brothers and I would watch kung fu, action, comedy and drama films nearly every day/night whilst my parents ran a service station/restaurant.
During my completion of the Suzuki Violin program, from ages 6-14, Dad encouraged me to play the violin for the Warwick Community Youth Orchestra and later in 1996, halfway through my law degree, suggested I enrol in a Music course at the University of New England. I never finished the music course but it was an experience I would draw upon later in 2006 when I enrolled in Contemporary Performance at the Australian Institute of Music in Sydney.
Mrs McVeigh and Mrs Edwards, teachers at my primary school Warwick West, thought that I’d make a great actor and with their support I performed in amateur productions of The Nutcracker, Alice In Wonderland, Swan Lake and The Pirates of Penzance.
So thanks to this early exposure and encouragement from Dad and my primary school teachers, my love and passion for the performing arts was born and bred.
Q9: People can learn all their lives from others at how to do something but at the end of the day, what makes someone unique and be their best is their own unique personality and life lessons. How much does where you grew up and your own life experiences influence who you are and what you bring to the screen or any project you’re a part of?
To put it simply I am the sum of everything I’ve learnt and experienced in life. Everything I do has been reflected by the things I’ve been exposed to or have bore witness to, tempered by the values and personal beliefs I have and would like to share with others.
I’m grateful to the people who have provided me with inspiring films to watch, and to those who’ve given me support and career opportunities because in learning to adapt to their vision or creative ideals in my performances I have grown and improved as an actor and human being.
As a result, I believe in goodwill, love, beauty, music, art, travel, laughter, humour, food, peace, unity, diversity, action, excitement, sacrifice, magic and hope. I bring these beliefs with me everywhere I go, especially hope.
It’s important to have hope because, as we all know, life isn’t always rosy and will hit you where it hurts most when you least expect it. Hope helps us come to terms with terror, evil, sadness, depression, hate, loneliness, fear and loathing. Hope allows us to make the most of life and is the reason I’m planning to go to LA!
Q10: What’s next?
Aside from my move to LA there are a few other projects up and running.
There are plans for me to work on a couple of Bollywood films shooting in Sydney and India which I’ve yet to finalise but have already auditioned for and entered into discussions with, including one called My Cornerstone. It’d be great to work on something so culturally diverse!
I’m also presently involved in script reading workshops for Dead to Me, a film dealing with suicide and gun themes which should be an eye opener and really worthwhile doing with such a topical issue – the dangers of guns. The film is slated for a shoot schedule in January 2013.
Interview with Khanh Trieu by AAFFN’s Indigo Willing, January 2013. Photos courtesy of Khanh Trieu. IMBd page here.
Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season and the AAFFN will be back with more news, interviews, meet ups and more in 2013.
Thank you to all the actors, filmmakers and people involved with Asian Australian cultural productions and research who have participated and supported the network throughout 2012.
A special congratulations goes to Maria Tran and all her cast and crew, whose film HIT GIRLS had its premier in Fairfield NSW this 21 December. Watch out for it at a festival near you.
Filmmaker Maya Newell discusses her upcoming documentary ‘Gayby Baby’ with AAFFN’s Indigo Willing.
At 17, Maya completed her first feature documentary ‘Richard: The Most Interestingest person I’ve Ever Met’, which screened in festivals Worldwide. She completed a Bachelor of Media Arts and Production at University of Technology Sydney/combined University of Westminster London and a diploma in film from Sydney Film School. Recently, her short film TWO, was part of the official selection for Slamdance Film Festival and Silverdocs in the USA and was also the winner of Best New Documentary Talent in AIDC’s F4 competition, Adelaide Film Festival 2011. Maya has recently been on the programing team for Antenna Documentary Film Festival and over the past year has been making films with Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
As the marriage equality debate rages around the world, it’s become clear that there is a voice missing from the discussion: the voice of the kids.
GAYBY BABY is a documentary that will create a voice for children in same-sex families and help the rest of us make sense of what it means to be raised “culturally queer”.
1. How far are you into your documentary project’s completion? How hard is it to get an idea to the screen?
We are about 2/3rds into our shoot, then editing, post etc… so we hope to release end of next year. I have a belief that if you have enough resilience and your ideas are fresh, getting to a screen and finding your audience is very achievable. More than ever, we live in a world where filmmakers have access to screens without big corporations and traditional distribution structures. This is a very exciting time to be telling stories.
2. What main kinds of themes are you aiming to share in it?
Gayby Baby is a film about family. It’s about what is common to all families – love, strength, resilience and problem solving. Raising kids is no easy task. Most of all it’s about being different, and feeling proud of your identity.
3. What ways might your film reflect a side of Australian life that the mainstream doesn’t always capture?
Mainstream culture doesn’t represent gay families. There is a huge scarcity of stories about families like mine. Now there are a few slipping between the cracks like on ‘Modern Family’ and in the feature film ‘The Kids are All Right’, but I hope this is just the beginning. Gayby Baby will be the first feature documentary on this topic.
4. What kinds of stories would you like to see your peers make and the industry support?
Stories with heart. That’s all.
5. What’s next for you?
After birthing Gayby Baby, which still has a while to go yet, I hope to work on many other documentaries that represent the diverse people and wonderful communities that roam this Earth. Got a few stories up my sleeve already.
TO SUPPORT MAYA’S FILM REACH COMPLETION VISIT HER POZIBLE PAGE:
***Deadline to support this Pozible round is 18 December 2012 12:00 pm EST***
Some of Maya’s perspectives on families, equal rights and the value of hearing from children of LGBTI parents were also recently captured in her questions as an audience member on ABC TV’s Qanda Q & A show, directed to a panel including politicians Penny Wong and Barnaby Joyce. The show title is ‘Happy Endings’, viewable online here.
Thanks to everyone who supported the AAFFN panel here on Saturday 17 November for the Reel Connections Film Lab, supported by BEMAC, Griffith Film School, QPIX, White Light Studio, Krabi Studios, The Planet Spins, Australia Thailand Institute. http://bemac.org.au/events/reel-connections-film-lab/
Saturday 17 November – right in the middle of the huge Brisbane storm.
That’s dedication : )
Queensland Multicultural Centre
Conference Room, Level 2, 102 Main Street, Kangaroo Point
Our panel was on at 1.30pm and featured Joy Hopwood (actor, director, writer & presenter), Dr Sukhmani Khorana (BIFF committee, Film scholar, AAFFN), & Dr Indigo Willing OAM (AAFFN & sociologist), plus a screening of 13 peers in the screen community speaking about why it’s important to have Asian Australians on the Screen in the AAFFN Shout Outs video by Maria Tran (co-producers Maria Tran, Amadeo Marquez-Perez, Tseen Khoo & Indigo Willng)!
Andy Trieu, Actor – vimeo.com/13541156
Ralph Lim, V-logger
Joy Hopwood, Actor, Writer, Presenter – joy.net.au/
Sky Crompton, Writer, Director, Producer – youtube.com/watch?v=rU2nFPAR164
Maria Tran, Actor, Filmmaker, Trainer – mariatran.com.au/
Somchay Phakonkham, Fimmaker – reinvent-films.com/index.html
Thai Phuong, Actor – imdb.com/name/nm3341026/
Steve Nguyen*, Channel APA, USA – channelapa.com
Renee Lim, Actor – imdb.com/name/nm1813111/
Chris Pang, Actor – christopherpang.com/
Kathy Nguyen, Actor – motherfish.com.au/cast/
Shaun Chang, Filmmaker
Quan Tran, Filmmaker – facebook.com/dragonvisionproductions
Pearl Tan, Actor, Filmmaker – pearlyproductions.com/
Heng Tang, Director – imdb.com/name/nm0849289/
Jack Ngu, Filmmaker, Actor – youtube.com/watch?v=F7MYaIeIRHA
Tamara Guo, Actor, Stunts, Singer – tamaraguo.com/
Hai Ha Le, Actor – vimeo.com/26755815
Dominic Golding, Theatre Artist, Doco Maker – youtube.com/user/mytho2006
Jiao Chen, Filmmaker – staplefiction.com/
Jen Thym, Director, Writer, Producer – vimeo.com/rockginger
Indigo Willing, Academic, AAFFN co-founder & co-convener – indigowilling.com
Thanks to all those who came long to our Melbourne meet up with folks from the Asian Australian film, arts and academic community at a joint AAFFN and AASRN gathering. To read more about the ‘cheap and cheerful meets up series’ for this year, visit our 2012 page on the AAFFN blog.
Held on a Sunday afternoon at Chillipadi in Melbourne Central, the casual meet up was a really great occasion to catch up with a diverse range of people whose work, community ties or family fall under the umbrella of ‘Asian Australian’. This includes people such as actors Alfredo Nicdao (most recently starring in the short film ‘For Evie‘), Chris Pang (actor in the feature film ‘Tomorrow, When the War Began’) and Emira Jurik, directors and film industry folks such as Somchay Phakonkham (dir. of ‘The Boat)’, Matthew Rooke (lecturer and had a short recently screened in Melbourne’s KOFFIA short film sessions), Matt Pastor (dir. of Random which recently screened in Colour FF), Jacqueline Erasmus and Susan Lee, writers and poets such as Lian Low (prose editor of PERIL Magazine) and bloggers and activists such as Oahn Tran, and scholars such as Dr Olivia Khoo (researcher and co-creator of the Asian Australian Cinema project), Grace Edwards (PhD candidate, History) and Jen Tsen Kwok (blogger and PhD candidate, Sociology) to name just some of the great locals. Meet up was organized by Dr Indigo Willing, one of the AAFFN co-conveners. Email Indigo if you have any more ideas for AAFFN events and meet ups.
Photos above from AAFFN and AASRN meet up.
AAFFN to give a panel talk at Film Lab Event- Brisbane
The AAFFN have been invited to present a screening of our Shout Outs video and do a panel talk at 1.30pm at a Film Lab event to take place at the Queensland Multicultural Centre, 120 Main Street, Kangaroo Point on Saturday 17th November BEMAC in partnership with Griffith Film School, White Light, Planet Spins and Krabi Studios with assistance from the Australian Thai Institute.
Let us know if you’ll be in town and can come along as audience. There’ll be a range of experts from across the film sector in the first of what will be an on-going series of industry development initiatives.
Australia-wide Japan FF
Shout out to JFFhttp://www.japanesefilmfestival.net/index.html
Short Film News
- Support Action Comedy Film – HIT Girls 职业女杀手 - and see their pic on front page of news here – Maria Tran’s latest short film is firing up!:https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=291054980994350&set=a.284293911670457.50071.284285088338006&type=1&theater
Hunt for Hiroshi
Blood for the Devil’s Daughters
- Asian Vampire Film shot in Melbourne.
It’s been a very busy couple of months as always for the Asian Australian screen scene which is always sweet music to our ears!
Most recently, we were very excited to attend the Colour Film Festival directed by Gary Paramanathan. The film program included a number of Asian Australian filmmakers such as Corrie Chen’s WONDER BOY, Matt Pastor’s RANDOM, as well as Mike Kang’s IT’S ABOUT SURVIVAL and another film he directed called KEMI which followed the stories of several African Australians in Sydney’s Blacktown to name just a few. Read more about the full program here.
Photos: Kemi, Wonder Boy, Random and It’s About Survival. Pics by Indigo Willing.
To celebrate Colour FF and to catch up with a range of local arts networks, the AAFFN also held a meet up on the following day at the QLD State Library. Attending were: Dr Indigo Willing, Dr Sukhmani Khorana, Dr Susan Leong, filmmaker Feal, Amadeo Marquez-Perez, Anna Yen and Gary Paramanathan. The AAFFN’s Indigo and Amadeo then caught up with Contact Inc’s Lenine Bourke the following day. Thanks to everyone who came along to discuss their projects and show their support for diversity on the screen!
Other exciting news includes:
- Casual Melbourne AAFFN and AASRN Asian Australian lunch meet up Sunday 21st October at Melbourne central – cheap and cheerful:https://www.facebook.com/events/476603875697085/
- Shout out to Matt Pastor whose film is screens at Footscray Community Arts Centre:https://www.facebook.com/events/337904276296752/
- Colour FF visits Tasmania 25 Sept. Find out more here.
- The Brisbane International Film Festival is looking for volunteers. Apply here.
- Casual Brisbane Asian Australian meet up Sept 23 to coincide with Colour FF – cheap and cheerful:https://www.facebook.com/events/362881890461477/
- Performing arts workshop by Contact Inc. Contact Academy will be starting in 4 weeks! Spaces are limited so don’t miss out on your chance to learn some amazing performing arts skills for free.When: 24th and 25th of September from 9:30 to 4:30 http://contact.org.au/contact-academy-2012
- Earlier this month, Sept 5: Opening Thursday night at The Zenith Theatre in Chatswood, Stories East & West. Six storytellers in a profoundly moving show directed by William Yang and Annette Shun Wah for Performance 4a.http://youtu.be/ztt4SCgcit8 Book at zeniththeatre.com.au
- Sydney peeps: Colour FF is also on at the Chauvel on the 12th Sept (plus look out for Melbs dates on their website)
- Don’t forget to check out our new page for AAFFN articles:http://asianaustralianfilmforum.wordpress.com/articles/
- Shout out to Other FF: http://otherfilmfestival.com/ - five days celebrating international cinema dedicated to the richness of the lived experience of disability.
- ’IMMIGRANTS and CIGARETTES’ film news
(Directed by Mike Kang and with actors Felino Dolloso and Renee Lim and more). See more news in Destination Flavour at:
- FWD from ‘Lost Years’ documentary maker: We are interested in screening Lost Years in Australia and NZ. Our documentary was shot in Canada, Australia, NZ, USA and China. We just won the Grand Prize, Best Feature Documentary at RIIFF in Providence, RI, USA. Please check us out athttp://www.facebook.com/lostyearsface .
& here (thanks Pinoy news for info):
- The Boat, a film by Australian director S. Phakonkham, screening in So Cal FF – read more herehttps://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152148191565227&set=a.10150800681190227.737124.111912780226&type=1&the
and read more about Somchay here:
- Casting For Better Man
A four-part television drama series, Better Man, to be directed by Khoa Do is currently seeing Vietnamese actors for main and supporting roles. Produced by FreemantleMedia, the series will air on SBS in 2013. The se
We are also looking for volunteer writers and journalists to assist us to develop more articles and our news bulletins. Thanks for your support!