John Green is a skateboarder and filmmaker who resides in Brisbane, QLD. He was born in Ormoc City, in The Philippines and moved to Australia when he was one with his Mother and older Brother. Aged 22, he has been skating for almost 10 years and filming skateboarding videos for 5 years. His work includes for numerous companies and organisations such as Picture Wheels, Hoon Skateboards, Holiday Skateboards, Herstwood Skateboards and Skatebiz (as well as international brands). This includes Co-Filming/Producing a short skate film called “The Grass is Greener” in 2012. He also filmed and edited ‘The Herstwood Video” in 2013 and is currently working on personal projects. Below is an interview he did with AAFFN’s Indigo Willing.
What have you been working on recently?
One thing is “River City Flow” (2014), a project I worked on for a few months, predominately with Gareth Roberston and Andrew ‘Beacho’ Beauchamp. The idea was for the video to be all city footage and all at night. As word got out about the project, more people wanted to be a part of it, so there’s more involved as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VUPhd9uBic
A more current project for me is “The Hype Squad Video” which is a ‘homie video’ of the “Hype Squad”. Basically our skate crew and our friends. It’s due to be released in October/November 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9wQUcYofAw – Promo 3
How and around when did your interest in skateboarding become a major part of who you are?
Growing up I was really into basketball. I started playing at a local club when I was 12. A year later I started skateboarding and did both up until Year 12 (final year of high school). After finishing school and having way more time on my hands I started to skate more and enjoyed playing basketball less. Eventually stopped playing and skateboarding just naturally took over. That’s when the love really started.
My older brother skates. He was the one who got me into it. I remember we had a Tasmanian Devil board, that was the graphic anyway. It was like an old school pool shape, it was rad. We use to play around on that when we were real young down the driveway. Then we both got some crappy K-Mart boards, which sucked. When my brother got into high school he got into it more with his friends and started going to the skatepark on weekends. Eventually I started to tag along after getting some secondhand boards and wheels etc. He still skates now, he’s cool.
Not entirely haha I think they are slowly coming to terms and understanding why as I get older.
When I show my parents some videos I’ve done the first thing they tell me is that what we are doing/done is illegal and we shouldn’t be doing it, it’s funny.
The major challenge in street skating, not only in Brisbane but everywhere, is the police or security. More so security than police I think, they usually try and be a hero and abuse their power when they kick us out of spots. Another challenge I tend to come across while ‘street skating’ especially in the inner city is the public. Some cities and towns are more accepting and don’t really bother you, but in Brisbane it seems like everyone is against it, in my opinion anyway. You get the same old line “This isn’t a skatepark”.
I started filming when I was 16. My parents had some little handy cam which I started taking to the skatepark and filming my friends. I made a few little clips with it, it was fun. I then started to notice the progression of some of my friends and found that I wasn’t as good as they were, nor will I ever be, so…
…I thought why not upgrade my camera and film these guys properly to show the world their amazing talent.
Filming wise, for the last 4 years I’ve been using a Sony VX1000 with a MK1 Extreme Fisheye lens. The VX1000 was made in 1995 designed for the war. This camera was, and should still be, the industry standard for skateboarding. All the videos I grew up watching were filmed on the same camera and one of my main influences and favourite filmer, Beagle, is a strong VX1000 advocate. Now days everything has turned High Definition or ‘HD’ with the progression of technology. For this reason I’ve had to accommodate and buy a Panasonic HVX200 which films in HD and is used by many professional skate filmers.
When editing I use an iMac at home and a Mac Book Pro whilst on trip. I mainly use the Adobe programs – Premiere Pro, After Effects, photoshop etc…
All the good times I’ve spent with all my friends. Travelling to new places and meeting new people. But the best memory I have accompanied by the best feeling ever was during the filming process for “The Grass is Greener” a video a good friend of mine Michael Pearse and I made in 2012. I went out skating with my friend Liam. He had this trick he really wanted to do and the deadline for the video was fast approaching. He ending up trying it with no avail for 3/4 hours non stop and by then the sun, my batteries and both our energy levels were gone so we decided to call it quits. I think we went back a couple days later to try again.
[After] Another 3/4 hour session and still no make I looked at Liam and asked if he wants to keep going or try another day to the reply of ‘last shot’ which never means last shot. Next thing I know he’s rolling down the footpath triumphant. It was amazing.
I try to stay on point with my equipment, making sure everything is working, batteries charged and I have enough tapes to get through the day but there have been times where I’ve slipped up and mid session I’ve run out of batteries or tape and let everyone down.
Usually the biggest challenge is organising everyone! Trying to get them out of bed, ready and out the door every week is hard but all fun in the end.
First and foremost are my friends. They’re the guys putting everything on the line and going through the mental/physical battle of skateboarding. I want the best for them and I try to do all I can to help them succeed and progress.
Not too often, it’s a very low paying ‘JOB’. There are companies out there that help you out and I really appreciate those guys and give them 100% but…
…if you’re not in it for the love or didn’t start filming for that reason you won’t get very far. Same goes for skateboarding as a career as well.
Like anything you start from the bottom and work your way up. Just keep filming your friends or down at the local park and keep striving to out do your last edit. Over time you progress and start to know whats good and whats not. Be cool and down to earth with people you work with, they will like you more which might open up more opportunities. Unfortunately in skateboarding it is a lot about who you know, keep that in mind.
I think musicians are the most alike to skateboarders. Skating and music go hand in hand. I’ve been asked to film music videos and live sets for some of my friends’ bands. Apart from them I would like the reach the general public and make them see skateboarding in a different perspective and take it as an art form with positive outcomes rather than something negative.
I use to play guitar and other instruments growing up, still kind of mess around nowadays but never really have the time to sit down and learn something properly. I do really like taking photos, mainly on film. The whole process of taking a photo and developing it yourself really intrigues me. I always carry around a Canon AE-1 35mm camera, its really fun to use. I’m currently working on putting together a little coffee table book of my photos.
Growing up in Australia definitely changed the food I eat regularly to what I would be eating if I grew up in Asia. I mean I do eat a lot of rice but I can’t go past a Cheese and Bacon meat pie and a beer!
Can’t argue with that statement to close an interview with a quintessential Asian Australian and freshly talented filmmaker not afraid of taking risks and getting out there with a camera. Pies and beer. That’s certainly part of living the dream for all of us.
Look out for John’s future work in “The Hype Squad Video” and more. Watch River City Flow below:
All Ages, Many Wisdoms – Meet Asian Australian actors Charlotte Nicdao, her father Alfred Nicdao and his long time friend Ferdinand Hoang
A special ‘intergenerational’ feature with Charlotte Nicdao and her father Alfred Nicdao, and Alfred’s long-time friend Ferdinand Hoang by AAFFN’s Indigo Willing.
FERDINAND HOANG is known for his work on The Quiet American (2002), Little Fish (2005) and Mao’s Last Dancer (2009). He explains with warm humour and humility that, “I am a chap who tries to be an actor & very thankful am still around after a couple of decades; there is the beard* to prove it – who said only Lawrence Leung can grow facial hair!?
ALFRED NICDAO is an actor, known for The Great Raid (2005), Schapelle (2014) and Loot (2004). He made his screen debut in 1979 as a Sumatran fisherman in the seminal Australian television drama The Sullivans. Other work includes Embassy(1992) as well as in Aussie favourites Neighbours, MDA, Blue Heelers, Stingers, City Homicide and Sea Patrol. Over the years, he has played various Asian ethnicities, and at AFFN we especially love this photo of him as we know him, a true blue quintessential Asian Australian guy, photographed in a Midnight Oil t-shirt.
CHARLOTTE NICDAO is a Melbourne based singer-songwriter and actress. Her acting career began with a lead role in the AACTA nominated children’s series A Gurl’s Wurld which filmed on location in Sydney, Singapore and Germany. She contributed to the soundtrack for the series, co-writing some of the songs and singing on each track. Charlotte has joined ABC dramas The Slap and Time of Our Lives in guest roles, the latter of which featured her performing her original songs in character. In 2013 Charlotte was cast in the NBC prime-time series Camp as Grace – the quirky adopted daughter of a gay couple, who develops a romance with the camp director’s (Rachel Griffiths) son. In 2014 Charlotte will appear in the second season of award winning Australian comedy Please Like Me.! Charlotte studied music at the Victorian College of the Arts and the VCA Secondary school. In 2011 she was a finalist in the prestigious Generations in Jazz Vocal Scholarship. In 2012 Charlotte launched her original pop project Charlotte Nicdao and The Sloth Orchestra, her debut crowd-funded EP will be released later in 2014.
IW: Let’s get an insight into what you’re all currently working on. What’s a project you’ve felt really proud of and artistically enriched from being a part of recently?
My favourite project to date is the SBS drama Better Man, written and directed by Vietnamese/Australian Khoa Do. The lead character, Van Nguyen, is played by Malaysian/Australian Remy Carou. I believe this mini series showed that Asian Australian artists have the skills to deliver high quality drama that tells important stories. Next up, I am about to work on a stage play about people trafficking.
I recently worked on Maximum Choppage and the feature movie Sucker, two separate projects which are completely different, and yet in a quirky kind of way is intrinsically related; a bit like a set of twins who are individual beings and yet share similar genes – hope it makes sense. Also, I will be working on the ABC comedy ‘It’s a Date – series 2’
I’ve recently finished working on Please Like Me! which has been a ridiculously enjoyable experience, not least because the cast and crew were amazing – but also because my character, Jenny, was a complete weirdo and different to any other role I’ve ever approached. It was probably the most challenging project I’ve ever been a part of. Then, I’m about to start work on an independent film that I’m not really allowed to start talking about yet – but I’m having a great time working with the director/writer on my character. The script is exploring a fairly untouched genre for Australian films, I think, and it will be exciting to see how people respond to it.
IW: How did you all begin acting and what is one of the best experiences you’ve had doing film and TV?
It all started when the beloved Joyce Yuen ‘encouraged’ a very reluctant me to audition for commercials, etc. There are so many, but I choose ‘Thank God You’re Here’. You have got one shot, you don’t know what the invited guest will say, you are still a virgin at this & you feel like a gladiator inside the Colosseum arena at the mercy of hundreds of audiences showing either their thumb up or… DOWN. I think the producers were more nervous than I.
When I was growing up in Manila, I always kept myself busy during the school holidays. One summer, I signed up to attend a community acting workshop organised by one of the city’s major theatre companies, PETA, which is similar to Melbourne’s MTC. I met new people and I loved the idea of being involved in something creative and collaborative. From there I started working in radio drama and I was reluctant to move to Australia as I felt my acting career was starting to take off in Manila. I think every experience is the best experience. But one that stands out for me is when I did the ABC TV series “Mercury” in the mid 90s. That series was like going to school and learning how to become a proper actor. The ensemble cast included some of the best actors in the country including Geoffrey Rush.
I kind of fell into acting. I was really focused on music for most of my life, and I was pretty certain that I wanted to be a musician. Dad’s agent, Joyce, at Phoenix Artists, knew me since I was really little and occasionally would put me up for things if she thought I was right, but it wasn’t really something I thought would grow into something. Even after working on ‘a gURLs wURLd’ I went straight back to studying music. It was actually after I got really close to and then missed out on a role I really wanted in 2011 that I realised maybe I really wanted to be an actor. I was so upset when the job fell through, I started thinking maybe I cared more about this than I thought. So I dropped out of my music course to start acting classes, and I decided to just focus on making the acting career thing work and see what happened!
Weirdly, the first thing that comes to mind (when thinking about the good experiences) isn’t a job that I booked. I did a full day audition/workshop for a feature film that I had been shortlisted for a few years ago that was probably the first time I ever “dropped in”, it was actually before I even knew what “dropping in” was. We were doing an exercise I know now was a Meisner exercise and I just really naturally went with what was happening in my body and my brain and had this really intense and awesome experience. I don’t think I’ve ever been relaxed or open enough to do that again, I’ve been so focused on chasing it! I didn’t end up getting the role, they decided to go with someone much younger, but the experience of the audition itself made me feel like I’d achieved something really important regardless.
IW: Even though you once dropped out of a music course to focus on acting, you still perform as a singer and musician. Tell us about your ongoing love of music and your current band.
I’ve been studying music since I was four, I started as a classical pianist and then picked up clarinet. I always loved writing songs, and I started to get really into jazz music in my teens. I studied jazz as a vocalist at VCA, but around the same time I decided to try to be an actor I also decided I was probably never going to be as good a “serious” musician as I wanted to be. After I left the course I got a few of my friends who are amazing jazz musicians together to play some pop songs I’d been writing, and we had heaps of fun and I thought “I could totally do this!”.
The band now (we’re called Charlotte Nicdao and the Sloth Orchestra) is a bit of a fun catastrophe of pop and jazz and wine and costumes. We are bringing out our debut EP later this year – which I’m really excited about!
IW: What has been one of the more frustrating aspects about working in film and TV?
When people ask me to do accents other than my own – I struggle with accents. Or when they assume that because I’m Asian I can speak Asian languages.
I think it is very frustrating being an Asian actor in Australia – but I think it’s also a really complex issue to verbalise. I watched the Logies this year and remember thinking: My caucasian friends whowatch this will see all these (very talented) blonde women being nominated for awards and think ‘I hope one day I get the opportunity to play a role like that’, but what I’m thinking is ‘I hope one day I get to play the best friend of a role like that’.
When I read scripts without being given a specific character to read for, I immediately gravitate to supporting roles – because I know that there’s no way I’ll be cast as the lead unless it’s specified that the character is Asian. I was born in Australia and had a pretty traditional Australian upbringing, but because of the way I look – I think it’ll be a long time before Australian film and television see me as anything but a supporting character.
Having said that – my friend Remy won the award for breakthrough performance in Better Man, the first Asian actor to win a Logie (which is insane!!), and I feel like I’m increasingly being considered for roles that aren’t specified as Asian. The landscape is changing, and I feel like I can contribute by working really hard on my craft, and not taking on roles that encouraging stereotypes.
We understand there are serious commercial considerations, however, it’s heart breaking at times to see producers/directors/script writers playing too safe and change an excellent project into a mediocre one.
IW: Who is one of the stand out inspirations and mentors in your life and why? And what advice would you give others wanting to get into film, music or the arts?
Geoffrey Rush was an inspiration. I remember coming home from a shoot one day and telling my wife how amazing this actor Geoffrey Rush was and how inspiring it was to watch him go through the process. He was not yet famous as it was just before Shine was released, but it was no surprise to me that he has gone on to so much success.
If you want to do acting because you want to be famous, don’t do it. If you want to do it because there is something inside you that you want to express and share with an audience, then give it a try. You don’t need to do a course, just get involved in any way that you can – school productions, community theatre, participating in student projects such as short films – any avenue where you can practice your skills and grow your confidence.
In the acting circle, again there are many but one who stands out is Michael Caine who is so supportive to work with, and he’s a real English gentleman.
My advice to others wanting to get into film, music or the arts is to follow your passion, your heart and have fun. If you are after money and fame only, invest first in a good crystal ball.
Obviously my Dad is a huge influence, I probably wouldn’t have even considered acting if it wasn’t something he was so passionate about. He and my Mum have been incredibly supportive of my acting work, and also made clear to me since I was little that if this is the kind of work I want to do it should be because I love it, and I want to be good at it – not because I want to be “famous”. My Dad managed to pursue his acting career and kick so many amazing goals under the most difficult of circumstances. From his childhood in Manila where this kind of ambition would’ve been ludicrous, to navigating an Australian film and TV landscape in a time that would’ve been much less open to a performer of his background, to the work he continues to approach now with so much excitement and enthusiasm – he’s a pretty inspiring man.
Only get into acting or music or the arts if you honestly couldn’t be happy doing anything else. It’s an incredibly difficult field to work in, it’s often heartbreaking and almost always an uphill battle – so if there’s another career you think would fulfil you, do that instead. But if you absolutely must be an artist – find every way possible to be as good as you can at what you do, and it can be a very rewarding way to live.
IW: Tell me Alfred, as a father, how do you feel about your daughter following you into the entertainment world, and what she’s done in her career?
She has such great creativity and courage to take this industry head on. It is a very tough and sometimes cruel industry. There are more downs than ups. But she’s resilient and realistic, and that makes me very proud.
When I first saw Charlotte in her first TV appearance in a kids show “Fergus McPhail”, I was surprised at her natural ability to perform in front of a camera. It was then that I started to worry that she was getting into this very difficult industry!
IW: What are some good memories you have about Ferdinand as your friend and peer as an actor?
With Ferdinand, it was actually when I attended the first AAFFN meeting in Melbourne a couple of years ago, and Ferdinand invited me along – one of the short films shown had his son as the lead. It made me feel so proud of him for encouraging and supporting his son to give this industry a go.
Also, with Ferdinand, when I saw him in The Quiet American. Watching him perform a scene with Michael Caine is what every actor can only dream of, any average actor would have just frozen, and Ferdinand did it with ease.
IW: What, Ferdinand, is one of your favourite memories about Alfredo and his family and his career?
I remember first meeting Alfredo during an audition in the early days and was deeply impressed by his relaxed manner (I was a nervous wreck then) and his trademark friendliness. I know his family much later and am amazed that the whole family is so arty – Louise is a very good painter among other skills; and Charlotte, her talents we are already witnessing…
I saw Alfredo in an ABC/BBC production called ‘The Bite’ in 1996 and was like WOW-ed that an Asian actor actually had lines… and worked opposite big names like Hugo Weaving, Pamela Rabe, Shane Connor, etc.
IW: Can you talk about some great memories you’ve shared with your Dad in your career and what it’s like for you to see your Dad on the screen Charlotte?
Every time I book a job (or even when I don’t end up booking it) and my Dad hugs me and says he’s proud of me is very special. Pretty sentimental answer, I know, but it’s absolutely true.
A time I’ve seen him on screen and thought, “wow, that’s my Dad!” was on Blue Heelers and we all sat down as a family to watch it and he was terrifying in the role – I almost couldn’t watch it, he made such a scary villain!
IW: What do you all most look forward to in the future for Asian Australians in the screen scene?
Maybe it will be good when there is a time when the adjective ‘Asian’ and even ‘Australian’ will be redundant to describe an actor in any screen scene? And anywhere in the world.
More multi cultural talent on our screens, more stories about real people who made Australia what it is today, more audiences watching locally made drama.
I’m looking forward to when the characters we see on screen reflect the characters we see all around us in real-life, modern Australia. Not just for Asian Australians, but performers of every ethnic background. Someday the lead in a rom-com will be an Asian man, the teen coming-of-age film will star an Indian girl and someone will write a Jason Bourne style action thriller for me to star in.
*Ferdinand’s infamous beard to rival Lawrence Leung
MEET SOME OF THE CAST AND CREW
MAXIMUM CHOPPAGE is a new six-part series coming up on ABC2 TV in 2014.
Filmed in Cabramatta and other Sydney locations. Produced by Matchbox Productions.
AAFFN’s Indigo Willing talks to some of the cast and crew about their roles and what it means to them to be doing the show.
- Tell us your name and what’s your role in this project?
Lawrence Leung. Writer of three episodes. Actor with the most lines. I play the reluctant hero Simon Chan.
- Tell us, what’s one great or funny memory of working on Maximum Choppage?
One of the best things about shooting Maximum Choppage was working with Dong Tam fight team. Their martial arts skills will make the TV audience’s jaws drop. On the last day of the film shoot, Dong Tam’s Master Trung Ly conducted a moving traditional ceremony to celebrate how far the cast/crew had come as a new filmmaking “family”.
- What inspires you to do your work?
I am always inspired by the talented people I collaborate with. You never stop learning and developing when it comes to creative practice. I’m so lucky to have collaborated with such admirable colleagues in the TV, theatre and comedy fields.
- Tell us your name and what’s your role in this project?
My name is Maria Tran and I hold multi-roles on Maximum Choppage TV Series, from Associate Producer, Extras Casting Coordinator and Stunt doubling for the lead female character “Petal”. The role interchanges between working across departments, and wrangling with extras and in between changing into outfits to get a chair hit or two. J
- Tell us, what’s one great or funny memory of working on Maximum Choppage?
My personal funny/embarrassing moment that I can’t forget is a triple attempt at kicking a fish tank over and bouncing back from the kick and the fish tank wobbling to and fro and still intact. I had an epic run off, only to hit and bounce back from the fish tank in front of a crowd.
Other crazy moments that I recall include a lot of the conundrums that the Dong Tam martial arts troupe experience include their laugh out loud boy band impersonations to crazy kinetic spectacular movements. Overall funny moments are truly watching the amazing cast we had on the show, from the trio banter between the characters of Simon, Egg & Petal (played by Lawrence Leung, Dave Eastgate & Stephanie Son) and not to mention other hilarious sideliners which you’ll see once the show is on air on ABC2 in October this year.
- What inspires you to do your work?
It is most definitely furthering Asian representation on screens and telling untold stories from this demographic. I grew up dissatisfied with Australian film and television and witness the same types of stories (mostly stereotypes) and depictions as Asians play the most obvious kinds of sidekick roles and Maximum Choppage is perhaps, Australia’s first of its kind, a huge Asian Australian casted film project set in one of Australia’s most Asian diverse regions of Cabramatta.
- Tell us your name and what’s your role in this project?
My name is Stephanie Son and I play Petal in Maximum Choppage. Petal is best friends with Simon (Lawrence Leung) and Egg (Dave Eastgate) and is a straight-talking, no BS kind of girl who’s never afraid to back away from a fight. Some might say she starts fights – but that’s just conjecture of course.
- Tell us, what’s one great or funny memory of working on Maximum Choppage?
The whole shoot of Maximum Choppage was one great experience – it’s a tough call to decide on one specific memory. I really loved shooting all the fight scenes but I guess shooting episode 5 was one of my favourites. All of us running around trying to solve a murder and then being dosed up on Mrs Chan’s ‘Horny Duck’ recipe was a riot! It was hard to keep a straight face while we were shooting.
- What inspires you to do your work?
When you’re an actor, the work itself is what’s most inspiring – which can be challenging if you’re in-between projects. But when you’re working on a project where the writing is so good and the people you work with are so talented – it’s not a hard task to get up in the morning (even if it’s 4:30am) and turn up to work because once you’re on set, the experience itself is so much fun, it’s really just playtime for an actor. Both Lawrence and Dave are so clever and funny, you can’t help but strive to be just as good as them, just as funny. We had some great supporting cast as well, including Darren Gilshenan, Amanda Bishop and Anthony Brandon Wong, who were all so wonderful to watch and act with. They’ve had so much experience that it was just a joy to be able to work with them and watch their process and learn from them. I suppose that’s what keeps me going in the end, even when I’m wondering when the next project is going to come along – that genuine curiosity and desire to keep learning – it keeps you inspired and motivated to be an actor.
- Tell us your name and what’s your role in this project?
Trung Ly. I am the Fight Choreographer for the series and my role is to assess the cast for fight action character training and devise action sequences that gel within the scope of the script adding to the story and the vision of the director, Craig Melville. Also making sure there was continuous training and evaluation of the cast before and during the shoot, plus figuring out the smashable, breakable props required for a safe and enjoyable time on set.
- Tell us, what’s one great or funny memory of working on Maximum Choppage?
The talents who’s character don’t have much of a fighting role after assessment they are actually good and the ones that have major fighting roles don’t have screen fighting experience. I find it funny it was a bit of a challenge, but it all work out in the end and we enjoyed doing it. I did throw a plate into Lawrence’s head hit him square on side, he dropped to the ground then stood up in pain and gave his lines, its was gold! really awesome scene.
- What inspires you to do your work?
I love problem solving and working with lots challenges creates an atmosphere that I belong and thrive. Also I’m very happy that something this different to mainstream TV gets made , truly it is very unique and very enjoyable to be a part of.
Directed by Craig Melville. Written by Lawrence Leung, Duncan Sarkies and Josh Mapleston. Produced by Julie Eckersley, Sophie Miller and Linda Micsko. Executive Producers: Tony Ayres and Debbie Lee. Executive Producers for ABC TV are Rick Kalowski and Brett Sleigh.
Cast includes both familiar and upcoming Asian Australians such as Lawrence Leung (Choose Your Own Adventure), Stephanie Son (Rake), Anthony Brandon Wong (The Matrix), Andy Trieu (SBS PoP Asia Special Guest and ‘Kitchen Ninja’) as well as veterans such as Ferdinand Hoang (The Quiet American). Other cast includes Dave Eastgate, Darren Gilshenan, Jason Chong, Georgina Haig, Lap Phan, Felino Dolloso and Kathryn Yuen. The fight choreography is done by Trung Ly, Maria Tran and the Dong Tam team. Composer is Joff Bush.
Maximum Choppage is due to screen in 2014.
Adding an international dimension to our Asian Australian interview series, AAFFN is pleased to highlight the work of Kim Woozy, an Asian American video producer and web TV founder, whose content challenges gender stereotypes and a certain invisibility in mainstream programming by focusing on women in action sports like snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing. Below is an interview she did with AAFFN’s Indigo Willing.
“If we stop comparing ourselves to this artificial idea of a perfect person and instead gather bits of inspiration from many sources, we allow ourselves to embrace our uniqueness, which makes the world a more interesting place. Isn’t it more satisfying to be the best version of yourself than a watered down version of someone else? ” – Kim Woozy, founder of MAHFIA“.
A product of the millennial generation, Kim Woozy was born and raised in the heart of Northern California’s Bay Area. Her childhood was influenced by the juxtaposition of San Francisco’s rich cultural diversity, Silicon Valley’s technological innovation and the Sierra Nevada’s epic outdoor adventures. Woozy discovered her passion for videography at seventeen when she got her hands on her first digital camcorder. Since then, Woozy has gained nearly a decade of experience in video production and youth lifestyle marketing in action sports. In 2010, Woozy founded MAHFIA, a video production company and web tv channel that exposes the untold stories of females in action sports culture. MAHFIA’s mission is to promote females for their accomplishments and offer inspiration and entertainment for girls who are interested in the creative lifestyle of skateboarding, snowboarding and surf culture. In October of 2013, Woozy gave a TEDxTalk on women’s action sports marketing titled: “If She Can Do It, So Can I”.
- What types of things have you heard girls and women say in terms of things that motivated them to get into snow boarding, skating and surfing?
The most common responses I hear from women that skate, surf, snowboard, etc. – they had a brother, boyfriend or friend(s) that did those sports. Someone was there show them the ropes. Other girls said it was because of the X Games* on TV. It inspired them to try it out because it looked fun.
- Even though action sports are becoming more popular amongst females, and with many around the world performing at exceptionally high levels, they tend to be almost invisible in mainstream media and commercial imagery (eg. Shoe and clothing companies). With Mahfia, you get to change the tide and decide who gets coverage and why. What types of things and imagery do you strive to include and cover?
With MAHFIA, our mission is to promote fun and the creative lifestyle that action sports offers. We want to show girls that these sports are really fun and aren’t just for guys.
Limited opportunities are a challenge for the top females in action sports so we aim to provide a platform for them. These girls have based their entire lives on skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, etc. and are some of the most unique, hard working, fun-loving and inspirational people I’ve ever met! Through our lens, we hope to capture their personas and inspire others to participate in the culture.
Our tagline is “killin it softly”, which means that you achieve success by working hard and being humble – you are the best at what you do but you aren’t shouting it from the top of a mountain. We like promote this motto and the idea of creating your identity through your accomplishments and skills rather than hype or surface level characteristics.
- In a Ted X talk you gave in November 2013, you speak of ‘possibility models’ rather than ‘role models’, the latter who tend not to reflect a wide range of the population. Possibility models, you emphasized, are able to inspire without people having unrealistic expectations or standards they have to measure up against. What are some of the pressures girls and women get to farewell once they stop trying to be like mainstream ‘role models’ and start embracing a bigger range of possibility models?
The problem with mainstream culture today is that public figures or “role models” are generally one-dimensional, lack diversity (both physically and intellectually) and are often just puppets designed by large corporations in order to make money. This is a dangerous foundation for young girls and females in general. If we embrace “possibility models” and look to real people for inspiration, our goals and dreams become much more attainable, diverse and authentic. If we stop comparing ourselves to this artificial idea of a perfect person and instead gather bits of inspiration from many sources, we allow ourselves to embrace our uniqueness, which makes the world a more interesting place. Isn’t it more satisfying to be the best version of yourself than a watered down version of someone else?
- As an Asian American, you stated that one of your own ‘possibility models’ was Kristi Yamaguchi, a figure skater, even though you played basketball and other sports. Can you talk a little about why Kristi Yamaguchi was influential to you?
Back in the 90’s, there really weren’t any Asian-Americans or Asians period in mainstream media. At that point in my life I didn’t know of any Asian females (in real life or in media) who really excelled at sports. Seeing Kristi Yamaguchi in the spotlight was monumental and became a turning point for me. It was the first time I had ever seen an Asian female achieve a high level of athletic success. She was a huge inspiration. I didn’t necessarily want to be an ice skater but she made it desirable for me to be an athletic Asian female. She encouraged me to keep playing sports and helped me embrace my identity as an ‘athlete’.
- Who else might have been a possibility model to you more recently?
More recently, my possibility models have been real people in my life – mostly my older friends that I look up to. Being an Asian-American female trying to work my way up in the action sports industry, which is predominantly run by white males, I used to feel slightly out of place. A few years ago I heard about a woman named YuLin Olliver who started out as a competitive snowboarder and eventually became the Marketing Director at Fuel TV as well as Street League Skateboarding. When I finally met her, she instantly became a mentor and now is a good friend of mine. I try to surround myself with people who are talented, hard working, positive and they have all become “possibility models” for me in some way.
Another recent possibility model of mine is entrepreneur/chef/tv host Eddie Huang. I follow his web series “Fresh Off the Boat” on VICE.tv and also read his book. Like me, his parents are from Taiwan and he grew up in America in the 90’s. In his book and on his show, he addresses Asian-American identity and explores immigrant culture in various countries around the world through food. Eddie is a young Asian-American entrepreneur in the spotlight who happens to be intelligent and hilarious. He breaks all the stereotypes of Asians in media and has definitely inspired me to keep doing what I am doing.
- One of the central messages from your Ted X talk seems to include that we can all work hard at and get fulfilment from something if we find what’s right for us, have passion and get support. What were some of the ways you found supporters and momentum to develop Mahfia?
MAHFIA came about mainly through the support and collaboration with the professional female athletes and women in the action sports industry who I became friends with after working on the Girls brand at Osiris Shoes. We often had long discussions about what’s missing in our industry for females. The foundation of MAHFIA was built on conversations that started with, “Dude, it would be sick if…” I also teamed up with my college classmate, Jonathan Villegas, who is an extremely talented video producer and editor. We share a deep love for action sports and have the same artistic style and vision when it comes to video production. Without his support, there would definitely be no MAHFIA. One of the main reasons why MAHFIA materialized beyond just an idea is because I surrounded myself with like-minded people who gave me the courage and motivation I needed. Again, it comes back to having an environment of people who are constantly inspiring me to push forward. As for business, it wasn’t easy in the beginning but we are starting to see more brands become interested in the female market. Slowly but surely people are starting to understand the value in what we are doing.
- Mahfia goes against the stereotype of females being passive spectators of action sports culture. Can you tell us about some of the positive feedback have you had from people who were unaware of how popular and how advanced girls and women are from viewing your channel and social media content?
My favorite thing is getting emails and messages from people around the world that are genuinely stoked on our videos and what we are doing. I’ve gotten messages from parents, males and females from every corner of the earth saying that they are so excited that they found a website that features girls in action sports. My favorite ones are from girls who tell me they are the only girl in their town who skates, etc and they feel like a freak but then they see our videos and get hyped that there are other girls doing these sports. It’s my absolute favorite type of message because that’s the exact reason why I started MAHFIA.
- How might your background as an Asian American influenced or sensitised you to valuing the power of media and giving females a voice?
As an Asian-American growing up in the 90’s I always felt like an outsider. It’s odd because it wasn’t that there was a lack of people that looked like me – I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, there was a pretty solid Asian demographic around me. It was that the idea of being an “American” at the time didn’t really encompass minorities. Asians were not represented in any media – movies, TV shows, magazines, etc. In high school I remember wishing that I was more “white” – I started dying my hair blonde and wearing skate/surf brands. Being an Asian female and an athlete was definitely abnormal. I didn’t fit in with the Asian kids because I was a “jock” but I wasn’t truly a jock because I was still an Asian kid. Academics always came first but luckily my parents supported me in whatever hobbies I liked and they never made me feel wrong for being different. I did have to go through a phase of wearing dresses and going to piano recitals when I was younger but luckily they let me quit when I told them it made me miserable. That being my background, I am committed to telling my story and other non-traditional stories so that other kids out there can relate and understand that being unique is actually really awesome. Media is such a powerful tool, especially in today’s world. It’s so important that we tell our own stories and shape our culture collectively instead of letting other people do it for us.
- Have you done and do you have any future plans to travel abroad to do any special overseas pieces for Mahfia?
Yes, definitely! Traveling abroad is always one of my main priorities. We’ve been to Germany, Canada, Singapore, Spain, Japan and Taiwan so far. Most recently we are working on a new series that will be released later this year that includes a few episodes that feature girls action sports culture in Tokyo and Taipei. I am really excited about that and hope to continue to travel to Asia to shoot more. We’ve also been talking about going to Brazil for some time now — the skate scene there is amazing and I would love to go. Action sports culture is growing rapidly all over the world, it’s really an exciting time.
- Have you any plans to come to Australia and collaborate with locals?
For sure! We actually almost came out this year to film Lizzie Armanto for Penny Skateboards who is one of our brand partners based in Australia. Unfortunately the trip had to be rescheduled but Australia is definitely on our future agenda. I’ve never been and I’ve been wanting to visit for a very long time now. I can’t wait!
- Anything else you would like to add?
For all the girls out there that have ever thought about stepping on a skateboard, strapping on a snowboard, paddling out on a surfboard OR picking up a camera, my advice would be to GO FOR IT! Find a way to make it happen and don’t be discouraged if you aren’t good at it at first. Everyone sucks when they start out. But if you stick with it, I guarantee it will change your life forever.
*To find out more about the challenges female athletes face also see Underexposed: A Women’s skateboarding documentary.
All images are kindly provided by MAHFIA and feature females doing their thing – killin it softly.
A short film raising awareness for Emily Needs Stem Cells. All Asian Australians can get involved and potentially save a life.
Directed by Corrie Chen
Produced by Bryony McLachlan in association with Jus Media
Starring Lawrence Leung, Maria Tran and Andy Minh Trieu
Fight choreography by Trung Ly & Dong Tam
Action Cam Team; Adrian Castro & Justin Gong
Cinematography by John Maloney
Editing by Lauren Anderson
Sound recording by Dane Cody
Music by Jamie Messenger
AAFFN Interview with Dir. Corrie Chen http://www.corriechen.com
by Indigo Willing
Corrie is an award-winning filmmaker whose work has screened at numerous festivals around the world. Upon graduating from the Victorian College of Arts in 2010, her student films have won numerous awards, garnered an ADG Best student film nomination and she came runner up in the QANTAS SOYA awards. Consequently Corrie was invited to participate in talent labs as part of Melbourne International Film Festival (Accelerator), and Munich Film Festival (Film Schools).
Corrie’s latest directing work includes her first documentary in Suicide and Me – a 1/2 hour documentary commissioned by the ABC. On the night it was broadcast, the show title trended across Australia and a clip from the documentary went viral internationally. She has also recently completed the short comedy Bloomers – a 2013 recipient of Screen Australia’s Short Film Completion Fund.
The start of 2014 sees Corrie invited to Berlinale Talents (as part of the Berlin Film Festival) to receive mentoring from internationally acclaimed filmmakers. She will also direct Reg Makes Contact – a short film developed and financed with the support of Screen Australia’s Hot Shots program.
Current project: REG MAKES CONTACT. On the eve of being admitted to a nursing home, a space-obsessed dementia sufferer unearths a mysterious object from the sky.
- What are some of the key goals that drive you to do what you do?
CC: I have always been interested in the idea of cultural collisions – too often a topic portrayed with seriousness. I want to give audience the permission to laugh at themselves and others in situations they recognise and relate to, instead of being threatened by what they don’t understand. I grew up in an era when it wasn’t completely safe to be Asian-Australian. Having to always question my own cultural identity, it is something that is hugely prevalent in my work. Boundaries between east & west are mixing together as never before. I wanted to reflect this and move beyond old stereotypes – to be more hybrid in form, and more accessible to a bigger audience.
I am interested in the current and the future – the stories of how the Chinese have dispersed across the world, and ultimately the effect of the East moving into the West, rather than the reverse. I believe cinema is perfectly placed to reflect this next phase in our history, and these are the stories that can truly cater for both the Eastern and western audiences.
- Can you list one or a couple of films with multicultural cast members or content would your recommend to others? Why?
CC: Generally speaking, I find TV does a far better job at representing multiculturalism than films do – I think the domesticated nature of television grounds the stories in recognisable settings and characters, and it also responds faster to what audiences want. I tend to find American TV much better at colour blind casting – famously on GREY’S ANATOMY, and the earlier season of GLEE played on the stereotypes of the “typical Asian teen” to great comedic effect.
In Australia, reality TV does multiculturalism particularly well – though unfortunately a lot of the time they are portrayed as conniving! It was great to see Dami on X-FACTOR, and many recognisable Asian identities such as Poh and Adam were from MASTER CHEF. In drama, I think the portrayal of Asian-Australians still have a long way to go, but I’m heartened by the strength of indigenous talent on shows such as REDFERN NOW as a possible future for AA stories
- Who are some of the key filmmakers overseas or here that make a difference to how we appreciate diversity in film?
CC: For me personally, Ang Lee’s early 90’s trilogy of films really opened my eyes on what it meant to an Asian in the West. Even though he’s moved away from that topic since then, I still think he remains crucial in breaking down barriers for Asian filmmakers, and the kinds of stories they can/are allowed to tell. Another interesting filmmaker is Justin Lin (director of FAST & FURIOUS franchise). Now he may not be the “art house” type of filmmaker that critics like to talk about, but I think he’s immensely talented and FAST & FURIOUS films he directed (5-7) remain some of the most multicultural Hollywood films made in recent years. AND with billions in box office takings, lots and lots of people obviously saw them. His earlier indie films are definitely worth checking out, especially his AA breakthrough BETTER LUCK TOMORROW.
And for me, I think that’s the next step – when Asian people are on screen, it doesn’t neccesarily have to be about their “plight”. Most Asians I know are fully integrated and have very nice or comparatively ordinary lives in the West.
- People sometimes say there’s simply not the talent pool or viewing public for diverse casting and stories. From your experience, how easy is it to cast for your films?
CC: Unfortunately I do have to agree somewhat – it is quite hard to cast, and that’s why you keep seeing the same actors playing “international student 2” or “restaurant owner” on TV all the time. Not to say it’s impossible – it just requires a lot more time and effort, which means money, etc. I think this will change and more 2nd/3rd gen Asian-Australians join the creative industry, both in front and behind the camera.
- Who are some of the mentors and supporters who have backed diversity in films in Australia?
CC: I do see a sense of energy building for more screen diversity in Australia. The more we start to see visible AA on screen, the quicker the momentum will build. People such as Tony Ayres, Lawrence Leung, Alice Pung and Benjamin Law help to promote authenticity in telling these stories, which is the most crucial part. And of course, AAFFN is definitely the biggest supporter of any AA’s in the industry.
It’s not the fault of anyone in particular – it’s easy to blame the producers or networks but there are so many reasons why there aren’t more AA stories on screen; from not enough talent behind the scenes to give it that truthfulness that audiences expect and crave, through to the bottom line – will people actually watch it? In the end, film and TV is big business and it would be naïve to ignore that.
- What is some of the most useful and encouraging feedback you’ve had from public and industry that have seen your own works?
CC: This was something I was told this year by someone high up in the industry – that my work displayed a true picture of 21st century Australia. It’s something I never set out to do, but just came naturally to me. It’s very flattering, because when I was young I remember I always wanted to be white and blonde, because that was what it was like on Neighbours so that must be the only way I can fit in.
I can only hope in the next decade, young AA kids can watch TV and realise that being themselves, whatever east-west fusion they are, is the best thing in the world.
- What kinds of stories do you want to see in the future?
CC: Oh…so many. More multiculturalism in comedy would be fantastic. I think they have plenty of multiculturalism in crime dramas (unfortunately), but comedies is sadly lacking.
- Any advice for up and coming filmmakers and actors?
CC: Know what it is you want to say and why you want to do this – and reflect it in your work. This industry is so tough there will be many times you want to quit, but if you remember why it is you want to make movies or TV in the first place, that is the thought that will help you hold on in your low or stressful moments when you have parents breathing down your neck, demanding reasons for why you don’t have a second house yet like so-and-so’s kid from down the street. For me, I simply cannot imagine doing anything else that would make me even half as happy as I do when I write or direct. Well, actually I CAN’T do anything else because my only other skill is making dumplings, and god forbid I conform to any stereotypes (laughs).
AAFFN Review of BRUCE LEE PLAYED BADMINTON TOO By Indigo Willing
Film Synopsis: Awkward surburban teenager Nic Wooding wants to be the greatest badminton player in the world, much to the dismay of his demanding and prejudiced father.
Dir. Corrie Chen, Prod. Anna Kojevikov, Cin. Shelley Farthing-Dawe.
Australia has both a vibrant and tense relationship with ethnic and racial diversity. Films dealing with migrants for instance have focused on oddness (THEY’RE A WEIRD MOB), destitution (THE FINISHED PEOPLE) and high violence (ROMPER STOMPER). Chen’s filmography includes shorts that present a much more tender, intimate side of the migrant and Asian Australian experience (such as WONDER BOY about a school boy trying to fit in, and HAPPY COUNTRY focusing on the experience of a married young woman from China trying to fit into a new life in regional Australia). Such films touch on the embarrassment, loneliness and disappointment migrants and second-generation children can experience quietly and internally rather than in more overt anger, strife and tears. Such themes are by no means new to Asian Australian stories, but Chen has a skill for shedding light on the quiet, affectionate and ordinary ways such challenges are also sometimes overcome, if not forever, at least for the day or a precious moment. Whether an afternoon on a couch with a mum, or sitting looking at the sunset across a desert road, we feel a sense of reassurance that belonging can be anyone’s if you just hold on that little longer and value the things and people that really matter.
In BRUCE LEE PLAYED BADMINTON TOO (BLPBT) there is much humour and warmth in the way Chen focuses on similar themes of what it’s like to be an ‘outsider’, only she turns the tables by having a White Australian as the misfit in a competitive badminton scene where Asian Australians are portrayed as the ‘typical’ players. In its opening scene, the film presents to us a finely detailed and beautifully shot image of Nic Wooding, dressed in athletic clothes and ready for action. But Nic is no Aussie ‘chesty Bonds-style’ icon or Adonis with a tan, rippling muscles and chiselled features. Instead, we see an affectionate image of an awkward young, adult, male who is no hard body, and who has a range of hallmarks of being a classic ‘nerd’. This includes his being dressed in a daggy, ill fitting white sports uniform, with his big white underpants glaring through hilariously translucent super white shorts. The scene is set for us, the audience, to empathize with the kind of under dog who typically never gets the girl or the glory.
In following scenes we find him to be the ultimate under dog, a boy in the suburbs who dreams of playing badminton competitively, with parents who love him but have no faith in his potential. Nic is passionate about both Bruce Lee and badminton, and in the lead up to a competition, he reaches a point where he is unsure if he really ‘deserves’ to be accepted as having a connection to either. By the film’s conclusion, there is a gentle reminder in the message that, we all have the power to look past stereotypes, and to treat any search for belonging as an open page.
Chen’s casting is impeccable, including the lead Nathan Derrick, love interest Jenny Cheong, and veteran Asian Australian actor Ferdinand Hoang (who features in a brilliant and memorable scene with Michael Caine in THE QUIET AMERICAN). Jude Beaumont plays a sympathetic mum, and Christopher Bunworth, who along with Nathan Derrick gives one of the film’s stand out performances, gives us a stern but ultimately likeable father. All the performances are natural, memorable and touching, in an unforced and very life affirming way. The cinematography is top level in the hands of Shelley Farthing-Dawe and other crew, with a special mention of Sally Adinsall for production design. Nic’s home is classic Australiana and many people will recognize a bit of their own childhood or older relative’s homes in his.
Chen is undoubtedly one of the finest and most promising directors in Australia right now. She has won many awards for her short films and was runner up in the QANTAS Spirit of Youth (Film Category) in 2012 for this film. She also has range, with her other work including a documentary on suicide (SUICIDE AND ME) that has screened on the ABC, and a comedy that will be touring soon (BLOOMERS) and also an awareness campaign featuring Lawrence Leung (EMILY NEEDS STEM CELLS). Watch out for what she brings to the screens in 2014 and beyond.
Whatever your holidays are like culturally, we wish you a wonderful time with good people and keep holding on to your creatives and community dreams. Looking forward to covering more news and doing more interviews and pop-up events in 2014!
The Asian Australian Film Forum (AAFFN) – Twitter @AAFFN had a great year, including plenty of news to share on social media + we were also fortunate to highlight lots of interesting stories – all belonging to awesome people and looking forward doing to more in 2014:
Aileen Huynh – George Dot Play
& Dr Sukhmani Khorona’s pieces on:
Interview with Chris Raja about ‘The First Garden’ by Sukhmani Khorana (March 2013) http://http//asianaustralianfilmforum.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/interview-with-chris-raja-writer-teacher-and-playwright/
Reflections on Gondwanalandings: Towards a diasporic imagination in Australia by Sukhmani Khorana (October 2013)http://asianaustralianfilmforum.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/gondwanalandings-towards-a-diasporic-imagination-in-australia/
AAFFN is completely volunteer run.
Dr Indigo Willing OAM, a former resident of a Vietnamese orphanage, co-founder of AAFFN (and founder of Adopted Vietnamese International (AVI)) is giving away a MEOW skateboard prize with trucks and wheels donated from Extreme Skates – to raise awareness and funds for the Vietnam Volunteer Network (VVN) whose work includes assisting kids at Trung Tâm Nuôi Dưỡng Bảo Trợ Trẻ Em Gò Vấp (Go Vap orphanage) in Vietnam as well as those affected by landmines and Agent Orange.
To enter you must be living in Australia, make a donation of any amount (even
as little as a $1 AUD as every little counts) to the Vietnam Volunteer Network and please feel free to share the competition link on Facebook.
Anyone in Australia will be eligible to go in a draw to win this skateboard. Comp open now – Prize announced Jan 30th, 2014.
For people outside of Australia who donate you can go in the draw to win a copy of ‘Miso for Life’ edited by Mai Xuan Bui and featuring a chapter by Indigo on her reflections as a Vietnamese adoptee. Indigo will also write a special personal message inside the book cover to thank you the winner for their support
Read more and donate via this link: