Waleed Aly wins Gold Logi, Lee Lin Chin nominated, Dami at Eurovision, SBS Pop Asia on fire – good times! Diversity! Congratulations to various Asian Australians making life on the screen more diverse. Recently, this also includes the below plus for more updates regularly follow us on FACEBOOK – https://www.facebook.com/AsianAustralianFilmForum:-
- Tony Ayres for an International Emmy for Nowhere Boys
Story at Daily Mail
- Maria Tran for her role in ‘Tracer’ released in Australia in May 2016, with Vietnamese cast and English subtitles. Tran has also been nominated to participate in Screen Producers Australia’s ‘Ones to Watch – Next Generation of Producers’ program for 2016. More info: https://screenproducers.org.au/news/next-generation-of-producers/
- Raina Peterson and Govind Pillai
‘In Plain Sanskrit’ – Performance soon with Raina Peterson and Govind Pillai – trailer by Jacqueline Erasmus.
- Performance 4a http://www.performance4a.org.au for their ongoing events and activities promoting Asian Australians in the theatre and on the screen
- John Prasida and Alfred Nicdao in TOMORROW, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN TV 6 part TV series on ABC3 running in May 2016
- Charlotte Nicdao for her article in DAILY LIFE about the challenges non-White Australian actors face:
- Max Brown who was featured in ‘Bringing Them Home’ for a special screening on ANZAC Day. SYNOPSIS: Samuel Tongway was born in Australia, the son of Chinese immigrants. After enlisting to fight in World War I, he was told his services would not be required, as he was not of “sufficient European blood”. The program is viewable this month at: http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/bringing-our-stories-home/ZW0681A005S00
Thank you to everyone who spoke at, attended and supported our AAFFN 2015 event in Melbourne – a creatively fuelled weekend free to the public and dedicated to promoting Asian Australians on and behind the screen. Photos below by Nikkei Australia and Mayu Kanamori who kindly shot and shared them with AAFFN.
AA Filmmaker Matthew Victor Pastor wins Best Director & New Voices Award at the 47th Annual Victorian College of the Arts graduate film awards
Asian Australian filmmaker Matthew Victor Pastor was recently the recipient of the Best Director *Master’s, and New Voice awards at the 47th Annual Victorian College of the Arts graduate film awards.
His short film I am JUPITER I am the BIGGEST PLANET is a harsh look into the realities of his motherland the Philippines, the exploitation of Women and how the Western world interacts with South-East Asia.
The film will have one more screening at ACMI on Saturday 12th December at 3:30pm as part of the VCA graduation film sessions in Program A. Be sure not to miss it alongside the other graduate films before they embark on their international film festival journey. Tickets: http://vca.unimelb.edu.au/engage/vca-47th-annual-graduate-screenings
IW: What does your film set out to do?
JUPITER is a film about harsh realities and truths. In a world where we are so distracted by selfies, food pics, social media and other distractions a film like JUPITER exists to shake the audience.
“Silence in the Red-Light District of Manila”, is the films short yet sweet synopsis to reinforce the non-dialogue aspect of the storytelling. Without words there is an uncomfortable silence and dialogue is not important to express a message about how human beings are treated just across our shores.
IW: Who was involved with the production of JUPITER? What was the filmmaking process like?
Andrew Leavold (The Search For Weng Weng), Lisac Pham (lead actor) and Olive De Leon (production manager) helped get the ball rolling. Andrew our associate producer set the groundwork in Manila for me to connect with the local filmmaking community. My wife Lisac Pham spent months in rehearsal and researching to get into character and together we rented a room in the heart of the Red Light District to be close to the subject matter. Olive De Leon spent countless nights helping with contracts, location permits and dealing with the local police to make sure we could film. We also flew out local Melbourne filmmaker Gregory Pakis to play the sleazy sex tourist. The production process from writing script to editing was a 8 month period for myself and Lisac, which also put a lot of strain on our marriage. The production process could be described as picking at a fresh scab and watching it bleed and then being proud of the scar later.
IW: What are your future plans?
We are hoping to get a world premiere at an international film festival so we are sending it out now. Recently Lisac Pham and I also co-directed a feature film BUTTERFLY FLOWER: Please Wait To Be Seated. We are also currently finishing post-production on it. BUTTERFLY FLOWER is an experimental film which features the writing/poetry of Filipino poet & film director (father of Philippine Digital Filmmaking) Khavn De La Cruz. He inspired us to film BUTTERFLY FLOWER over kebabs at Stalactite’s when he was in town to premiere Ruined Heart at the 2015 Melbourne International Film Festival. He challenged us to to shoot the whole film in under 24 hours like his ‘Day Old Flick Manifesto’. It was great to create a film quickly and raw, a timestamp of the creativity of that moment. In the future I’d like to continue making movies which take years, and some which take a day. I like extremes.
An interview with Kevin Bathman, AAFFN 2015 Event panelist by Indigo Willing.
Kevin Bathman is a visual designer, storyteller, curator, writer and social change advocate based in Sydney. He is interested in using creativity to address environmental, cultural and social justice issues, and believes that the arts is an untapped avenue for catalysing change. As the founder of social enterprise, Coalition of Mischief, Kevin has worked on numerous social justice projects with not-for-profit and arts organisations to help them communicate their message better. In 2013, he co-founded Carnival of the Bold, a movement of arts for social change. Since 2012, Kevin has been researching the history, connections and cross-cultural stories between the Chinese and Indian culture for his project, The Chindian Diaries.
We are fed an abundance of Hollywood films in Australia – but to me, what that industry clear lacks are a diversity of actors, stories and writers. To be honest, I was tired of seeing the Australian arts and creative sector be dominated overwhelmingly by white, male-driven heteronormative narratives. Why was this sector not reflecting what Australia really looks like? When it came time to curate Carnival of the Bold, I made it a point to include diverse voices – voices that we rarely hear or see, voices that more often gets rejected or sidelined due to its “non-mainstream” narrative.
Describe one of your favourite moments as a festival programmer?
What do Australians gain when they see diversity on the screen? What’s the feedback like?
A new perspective, a new way of living, a new way of thinking. People generally don’t know what they don’t know. In the arts sector, it takes a brave festival and film curator to expose new narratives to audiences. In many respects, they are bound by the marketability of the film/artist and the need to pander to what their audiences are already familiar with. It then takes tremendous effort to convince funders, board members and committee to go down a new path. Once they succeed, you run the risk of audiences not turning up or keeping away due to its “foreign” content.
What are you working on now? And what are you working on or would love to be doing next?
27-28 November 2015
Kaleide Theatre, RMIT University, Melbourne
Joy Hopwood was a former Presenter of A.B.C.’s Play School, a writer, blogger, teacher, lecturer, public speaker. She was an ambassador for Mission Australia and Cancer Council NSW and was nominated twice for the Australian of the Year awards. Joy was a contributing writer for Growing Up Asian in Australia (Black Inc Books), Chinese Australian Women’s Stories (Jessie St Library / CHAA) and Reflecting on Life (Pearson Education). She wrote and created “The Wong Side of Life” theatre play, and transformed it into a video form titled “Kindness is for Free” ( an anti-bullying & anti-racism initiative in schools). She also founded and is artistic director of the yearly Joy House Film Festival. Joy blogs, writes, acts & makes films.
Describe one of your favourite moments as a festival programmer?JH:
What do Australians gain when they see diversity on the screen? What’s the feedback like?JH:
I’m busy working on next year’s Joy House Film Festival and busy writing at the moment. I’m also writing a story at the moment and hope to share it with an audience in late 2016.
For more info about the AAFFN 2015 event in Melbourne in November visit:
27-28 November 2015
Kaleide Theatre, RMIT University, Melbourne
Australian Asian auteur Matthew Victor Pastor will screen the world premiere of his new short film Xuống Dưới (Down Under) at the 15th DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival. Down Under will be shown on as part of their shorts program ‘We Are The Choices We Make’, starting at 6:00pm on Saturday April 18, 2015.
A surreal painting of moving lights, Xuống Dưới captures the melancholy of lost love and rejection amidst the emptiness that is found in a restless city” – Joyce Ng (Editor, JOM Magazine)
“Down Under is very personal film to me. In many ways it’s my suicide note. Death has been on my mind a lot lately, and how love is connected to death. My earlier works, the feature film Made In Australia and the short film Dinky Di Aussie were about my qualms with Australian culture and the Westernization of Asian culture growing up in modern Australia. There is a cultural subtext to this movie as it’s still about two connecting nations represented by my characters, but the emotional core of this film is the idea of how memories act as ghost’s, which haunt us. Even after something as certain as death, the living still can’t forget the imprint the dead have left. The past is a spirit, which can take hold for eternity. I was in love with a beautiful woman while writing this film, but I still couldn’t help continue my narcissistic needs, and my lonely and selfish desires. I love her dearly. This film is my apology, my suicide note, our story.”
The program will be held at US Navy Memorial Burke Theatre located at 701 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC 20004. If you are reading from the US check out his latest film.
Keep updated at www.facebook.com/matthewvictorpastor
Interview with Pearl Tan by AAFFN’s Indigo Willing
Pearl Tan is the director of Pearly Productions, creating independent films and producing videos for businesses and arts organisations. Her work focuses on diversity, as the creator of YouTube series ‘Minority Box’ and as co-chair of the Equity Diversity Committee. She graduated from the NIDA Acting course in 2005. Originally from Western Australia, she also holds a Communications degree majoring in Media Studies from Edith Cowan University. In 2013 she received a Business Leader Postgraduate Scholarship from the University of Sydney to undertake a Master of Commerce, specialising in Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In 2009 she received a Mike Walsh Fellowship to attend the New York Film Academy. She teaches filmmaking at NIDA, screen acting at the Actors Centre Australia and has worked behind the scenes for Channel 7, Channel 9, Network 10, Perth’s 96fm and Faith Martin Casting. Her credits as an actor include Motel (Sydney Theatre Company/Wharf 2Loud), Love’s Triumph (Darlinghurst Theatre) feature films Home Song Stories, Sleeping Beauty and for television Channel 9’s Sea Patrol and ABC’s Nowhere Boys. Follow @PearlyProductns on twitter or visit http://www.pearlyproductions.com for more information.
Tell us about one ‘easy’ and one, ‘oh, so awkward’ experience you had when you first started out in the screen scene?
My first gig out from NIDA was a small role as a nurse in Home Song Stories, directed by the amazing Tony Ayres. I was acting so theatrically and in a hospital scene, pushed a food trolley out in this huge arc towards “the audience” (the camera) then to the patient and Tony said, just move it like you would normally, directly to the patient… and I thought, oh yeah, duh… that felt ‘oh, so awkward’. In the same job there was a scene where I didn’t have any scripted lines, but they wanted us to impro. Joan Chen’s character was in the scene, so I threw a “Hello Aunty” at her, which she had to respond to… so now I can say I’ve acted with her. That was ‘easy’!
Can you describe the first and last time you looked at the screen and thought, yes, this director or actor has made me want to get out there and do more in terms of promoting and seeing diversity on the screen?
My drive to create diverse content comes from quite a personal space. I realised, through the types of roles I was getting auditions for, my range as an actor in Australia was limited by my ethnicity. Seeing the many diverse and immensely talented graduates coming out of drama schools, I really wanted to contribute by working towards expanding the industry to allow them more access to professional work.
Tell us about one of the most ridiculously silly or offensive roles or characters you can recall so far that made you shake your head and feel very frustrated concerning stereotypes about diversity and ethnicity?
I won’t mention specifics, but I do shake my head and feel frustrated when I see a talented actor, from a minority ethnicity, working in an accent, when it seems irrelevant to the story, and I’m aware that their natural accent is Australian. It happens frequently.
What is a classic good example of a film and casting with diversity that isn’t token or stereotypical for you?
Deborah Mailman in ‘The Secret Life of Us’. One of the rare instances on Australian television where the ethnic heritage of a character wasn’t pertinent or referenced in the major storylines.
As a director and filmmaker you have covered comedy and breaking away from ‘dominant’ narratives of family with the short film Babycake, which features a lesbian couple and a gay couple starting a family. The cast is multicultural. And you are in the driving seat as director. Can you share any positive feedback have you had?
My favourite feedback is from gay and lesbian couples who have had children and find the story amusing. One lesbian mother even told me that they were almost offended that the characters almost naturally conceived and were relieved when they didn’t (spoiler!), which makes me laugh. No one talks about the diversity of the cast, which I think is a good thing, as it’s somewhat irrelevant to the story. Some people say it’s quite risky and done in a unique style, which I’ll take as a compliment!
The community of actors in Australia is a richly diverse one, although minorities tend not to get an abundance of the screen time. With Minority Box you have so far covered the challenges that four different populations experience as actors via short interviews (with at least 6 to 8 in each episode): Asian Australians, Indian Australian males, African Australian females and Middle aged women. What are some of the universal issues these actors face?
What I’ve enjoyed the most from creating Minority Box is meeting and talking to the actors off screen. What is remarkable about all of them is their tenacity and acceptance of insecurity that comes with being an actor. I see a beautiful vulnerability in all of them that is a strong, passionate, unapologetic craving to tell great stories and affect people’s lives. Almost all of them have aspirations to create their own work and I get really excited when actors take the power back and leap into producing (hopefully) quality, utterly unique and robust characters.
Keeping the focus for now to Minority Box, what main type of audiences would you like to watch this series and why?
Currently the audience are actors and industry people who have an interest in diversity. They are a wonderfully supportive audience and I am grateful for their eyeballs and subscriptions! I would love for this to open up more widely so that general Australian audiences can have an awareness of the depth of diverse talent in our country and start to demand with ticket sales and their remote controls more uniquely Australian (as opposed to stereotypically Australian) stories.
You were recognised as a finalist for “Best Factual Series” and shortlisted for the “Innovation Award” and “Best Collaboration” Award for Minority Box. What other types of positive outcomes and feedback have you got so far?
Generally people are very encouraging and excited to see something positive being made (without it being just a whinge-fest). They always ask me when the next episode will be out, which is difficult because I’m doing it in my living room, in my spare time… so it takes me around 6 months to complete one short video! My favourite thing about it is when I hear that actors have been cast from the series (which has happened a couple of times!), or that directors or producers note that they will be more considerate of diverse performers as a result.
Pearly Productions and the Symes Group are launching the Independent Theatre Diversity Fund. What’s the main goals of this fund and why did it become necessary to begin?
The main goals of this fund are to give talented independent producers a way of putting on a show with more ease. We will provide a small cash budget, rehearsal space, a video trailer, stills photography, marketing and social media strategy advice and anything else that I can think of and can find support for! There are wonderful examples of great indigenous work being produced (Sapphires, Redfern Now, Black Comedy etc) that are a result of financial support and mentorship from places like Screen Australia and the Australia Council. Learning from this model, I’d love to support diverse work in a more general way to allow more opportunities for development of these unique storytellers. It also aims to bring awareness at a grassroots level, as it will encourage independent producers seeking financial and in-kind support for their show to analyse whether their production includes diversity; if the answer is yes they can apply and if it’s a no, and they now have a fresh awareness of their lack of diversity… and that in itself is a good outcome.
Who are some of the people you’ve been able to work with who have pushed you hard to achieve and made you further believe in yourself and your vision for the screen?
I don’t think I need much pushing to achieve… I’m probably my own best and worst pusher! My incredibly talented friends are incredibly supportive and inspire me when they take their own risks in creating stories that are important to them. Every time I see a talented actor from a diverse background kicking butt, it inspires me to create more opportunities in anyway I can to get them out there in the hope that there will be more visibility of minorities in the mainstream eventually.
What’s next for you?
I will continue to chip away at producing many more Minority Box videos. I’m currently smack bang in the middle of a Master of Commerce, majoring in Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, on a Business Leader Postgraduate Scholarship. This is giving me the skills to create things like the Independent Theatre Diversity Fund and with 10% of Pearly Production profits now pledged back to diversity in the arts, I hope to expand my business and find more innovative ways to generate more diverse visibility and share more inclusive stories. I’m also getting employed as a director more and more with diverse content, which is really satisfying and fun, and look forward to collaborating with more passionate and like-minded people to create more momentum. As Co-Chair of the Equity Diversity Committee alongside Bali Padda and as a National Performers Committee member with Actors Equity Australia we have a few campaigns around diversity planned that are quite fresh and positive… so much… so much to do, so much we can chip away at changing, it’s all very exciting!
View the short film Babycake below:
Andy Trieu interview with AAFFN’s Indigo Willing
Three-time Australian Champion Martial Artist Andy Trieu expanded his repertoire from competing in tournaments, to performing in roles across stage and screen. Currently he is co-hosting on Australian TV and radio show SBS PopAsia, and is also featuring on TV shows Kitchen Whiz (GO!), Maximum Choppage (ABC2), If You Are the One (SBS2) Rescue (Ch9), and Pyramid (Ch9). Andy was also apart of the top 50 CLEO Bachelors of the year and was a runner up for the national search for hosts on ABC3.
Andy is an ambassador for the charity All Together Now and an advocate of the National Stroke Foundation. He holds a double degree in International Relations and Business (Australian National University).
Q & A
Typecasting was a common theme and lack of opportunities. But I think the industry is definitely changing and more great things are happening in that area.
It’s been a while since we’ve caught up but last time was when you were a special guest panellist at our AAFFN’s inaugural event in 2011. Let’s get started! When you were growing up did your family always feel you would gravitate towards the entertainment world and if so, what were the long-term ways they’ve always been able to support you to do that? Or did you surprise everyone one day and say ‘I want to get involved with TV and films’ and how did that go?
I was a very noisy and naughty kid so I think my parents hoped that I would get into a field where I could let that out. Mum originally told me I should be a doctor and I said “Okay, I’ll be a doctor like Jackie Chan”. She just had to nod. I told her if I got on TV one day I would say “Mum I’m on TV”. That maybe sealed the deal haha.
Mum did very subtle things to show her support, like buying a TV. I just had to then remind her to watch it. Dad bought a TV in his business and would tune into Kitchen Whiz everyday and when customers would walk in he would say, “Well what do you know my son is on TV” as if it were coincidental. So from their actions they showed me that they cared.
Many kids and indeed, big kids and adults dream of presenting and acting in some of the stuff you’ve done but don’t know how to start. What was one of the silliest things you did when you first started, and what was one of the most positive things that worked for you in the beginning?
Between working on the shows SBS PopAsia and Kitchen Whiz I can safely say I’ve ticked off all the things that you SHOULDN’T do on TV. A typical week on each show involves rolling down hills, smashing cakes on my face, testing stupid superstations, and making a fool of myself in front of celebrities.
On a random note…
I went into an audition for Disney’s Power Rangers once and I learned the wrong script. That was stupid. I’ve then learnt that preparation is key!
One of the most positive things that worked for me in the beginning which also sounds very cliché, was to be myself.
You exude a strong and positive energy, and your screen presence has a lot of larrikin going on. The tone is down to earth and you are not afraid to have a laugh. In what ways can humour help bridge differences or further connect people together?
The great thing about being a childish silly ninja on TV is that it’s not very far from me in real life… I find that humour helps me get a message across to an audience in a more fun and engaging way. People generally have their guards down more when they laugh.
What are some of the more serious roles you’ve played? And what’s a dream ‘serious’ role that you would like to play one day?
I always wanted to be a Power Ranger! I came so close so I don’t think I’m ever going to let that one go! Disney I hope you are reading this.
I played a killer named Sef Gonzales on a channel 9 show called Crime Investigations Australia. My siblings were scared of me for about a week.
Also I’ve played the cliché Asian bad gangster guy on the movie Wolverine and Tomorrow When the War Began.
Who are some people in the Asian Australian community who have been influential to you, including those you’ve worked with and those who you have not so far?
I’m fortunate to know the lovely Poh (Poh’s Kitchen) and Anh Doh (TV personality) and I love them as presenters. They are awesomely down to earth people. I love their shows and their work ethic.
I would love to work with TV personality Luke Nguyen! I send him a tweet or two every now and then hoping he will notice me but he is a busy man haha. When I started at SBS I went around the building searching every corner for him …#creepy lol.
Well everyone wants to say hi to Luke – hi from us at AAFFN as well dude. But enough creeping and fanboy and fangirl time over Mr Nguyen. We are busy busy too lol. If we can reflect back to the AAFFN launch event, what were some of the common challenges your peers have faced?
Typecasting was a common theme and lack of opportunities. But I think the industry is definitely changing and more great things are happening in that area.
What are some of the ways scriptwriters, TV and filmmakers could be more inclusive of diversity?
I think this can be done in casting and in finding great stories in the community that include diversity. GO ASIANS!
In what ways do mates and mentors in the industry currently help you grow as a presenter and actor?
My team at SBS PopAsia are really awesome! My co-host Jamaica Dela Cruz and our producers Maddy Fryer and Matthew Smith are really experienced and creative. They put time in every week to work on helping me grow as a presenter on TV and radio so I’m really thankful for that. This is done through air checks and constant feedback. They also allow me room to take risks. Something they will probably regret haha.
You were a finalist in the CLEO Bachelor of the Year awards, and your mate Thien Nguyen won last year. What was that experience like?
Being chosen, as a Cleo Bachelor is a real honour because it helps all Asian guys in one form or another be seen in a different light, not just a stereotype.
More importantly it helps you get a date lol.
Asian Australian men have not been as prominent as models, presenters and so on until recently. What’s changed to make more opportunities to get involved in those professions and roles arise?
I think it’s because of the increase of great Asian related content from food to Asian pop music. More great content brings more opportunities. To get involved in these projects still requires hard work and persistence in the industry in my opinion.
Are there any community or charity projects that have been close to your heart and that you’ve been involved with directly or would like to give a shout out too?
I’m currently an advocate for the National Stroke Foundation and an Ambassador for All Together Now, Australia’s only national charity that has a sole focus of addressing racism. Check them out at http://alltogethernow.org.au
Let’s talk about the Kitchen Ninja character, one of the roles you’ve done for a while and which looks like lots of fun and reaches a big mainstream audience. What’s some of the best experiences about being in the role?
I love being a silly Ninja because I get to be silly and ahh…..be a Ninja… that just about sums it up.
But also being able to have creative control over the character, doing Martial Arts and destroying food is very fun. I’ve also learnt so much about cooking and I’ve got a really great co-host Alice Zaslavsky (Masterchef) who keeps me in check.
You are also part of the SBS Pop Asia family now. What are some of the most fun aspects of your role? Do you and Jamaica think up fun ways to present or do you get to do a lot of the show improvised?
As a SBS PopAsia presenter we get to meet celebrities! Also create content and interact with people that love the genre! There is definitely a hard work element to it though, on a typical day Jamaica and I come up with content with the producers for our radio show (Download the PopAsia app to listen 5-7pm) whilst writing content for our TV show and then we have to go on air or start filming for the TV program. When we begin shooting there’s not too much room to improvise but we take as many risks as we can.
One of your other current and big projects you’re involved with is Maximum Choppage for ABC2 TV. You are working with an amazing team, including a who’s who of Asian Australian talent on and behind the screen. Can you tell us about your involvement?
In Maximum Choppage I play a villain named Fury. He is a charismatic, ambitious leader of a gang called the V-teks in Cabramatta and he is determined to take Lawrence’s character down. I had so much fun learning the Martial Arts and doing scenes with people that I use to Fanboy over like Lawerence Leung lol.
Oh I want to congratulate Timothy Ly and thank Matchbox Pictures for getting this project up and giving us all opportunities, especially Julie Eckersley. Starts on Feb 24th on ABC 2.
What is one of the funniest things that’s ever happened in your work?
When I was new at SBS I walked into the wrong studio and sat in the newsroom thinking that’s where we filmed SBS PopAsia. I later got kicked out!
What are you working on next?
Wow you are going to regret you asked this question because I’m about to shamelessly promote everything!
Jamaica and I are hosting a marathon of the hit Chinese TV show If You Are the One on SBS2 on FEB 14th, Prime time at 8:30PM
At SBS PopAsia we are going live and travelling down to Melbourne to do some outside broadcasts on the 19th of FEB at Fed Square.
Also I worked on three films that are coming out this year Unindian, starring cricketer Bret Lee, Alex and Eve, directed by Peter Andrikidis, and Me and my Mates vs the Zombie Apocalypse, featuring US star Jim Jeffries, Alex Williamson, Greg Fleet. SBS PopAsia is back every Sunday on TV 9am on SBS2. Oh, and Kitchen Whiz is on telly Saturday’s at 12pm on channel GO!
What is one of the biggest surprises in your career so far?
Biggest surprise ever was when someone came up to me on the street and asked me for a photo and a signature. I was so shocked that I asked them for a photo and a signature. My Mum still doesn’t believe me.
See segment from SBS popAsia at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7-TY5CgJbk
Meet Thien Nguyen: Talking about Cleo Bachelor of the Year 2014, working hard, community fundraising & more
WHO: Thien Nguyen was born in Australia. He is a black belt in Hapkido as well as the equivalent for Northern Shaolin Kung fu and studied at Dong Thanh Alliance Training Academy. He is also the founder of Hard Personal Training and an ambassador the Lenovo and The Protein Bread Co. As an actor, he won an award for the ‘Best Villian’ at the short action film festival in LA and was nominated for best actor for the feature film Change of Our Lives. AAFFN is stoked to talk to Thien Nguyen for our last feature of the year for 2014. Interview below by Indigo Willing:
To reach my dreams, I break down the task that I have to completed and just do one thing at a time, day after day. It is easy to be discouraged if we want results too quickly. It is critical to love what you do. Never use money as a motivator. Follow your passion is my motto. Success will flow from passion.
This has been a big year for you, including winning the Cleo Bachelor of the Year 2014. We are also very proud to have seen Andy Trieu, another Asian Australian with Vietnamese heritage, be a nominee for the Cleo Bachelor of the Year a couple of years before. Amongst your many other achievements, one of the perks is that your high profiles open up the door for many more multicultural Australian males to be in the modelling, presenting and acting worlds. In terms of other Asian Australians with high profiles in the media, entertainment and arts worlds, who are some of your mentors, role models and inspirations who you feel opened doors for you?
It has been an amazing year. I was Andy’s Personal Trainer not long ago, and we spoke about how great it was that we were both nominated to be a Cleo Bachelor. To actually win the competition was something beyond my wildest dreams! I have to thank my family for the support. My mum, dad, brother and sister in law, without them nothing would be possible. Maria Tran and Trung Ly have been always there to support me in Martial Arts and Acting. Both are very motivated and are inspiring people. I have never seen anyone else that is so dedicated to their craft. Thang Ngo who is a food blogger for Noodlies is my mentor which I also owe a lot to. He has helped me with my direction and has kept me focused and driven.
One of the great things about the Vietnamese community is their fundraising not only for Viet related causes, but also for the general community of Australians. Like when the bushfires hit, and floods hit, the Vietnamese community got right in there to lend a helping hand to everyone. What kinds of charity work and fundraising do you do, and why is it an important part of how you spend your time and use your profile?
I really love how the Vietnamese community gets together to help anyone in need. I have always vowed to use any success that I have to be able to help others that are less fortunate.
I run my own business, Hard Personal Training. Through this I have run charity events for The Fred Hollows Foundation, The Children’s Sunrise Villages and am currently organising an event for Bear Cottage. I believe that every little bit counts. I have also become an ambassador for Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The Streets. There will be a campaign for 2015 which I am fortunate to be apart off.
The best thing in life to me is to be able to give and help others as much as possible. Very few people are ‘overnight successes’. One of the keys to success for most people is hard work.
What’s a typical day’s hard work for you and how do you keep positive and motivated?
It is quite normal to have good and bad days. The key to being motivated for me is to have a vision that is greater than yourself.
I want to make and impact on the world and to be able to help others that don’t have the basic needs to survive or families that are going through tough situations. To reach my dreams, I break down the task that I have to completed and just do one thing at a time, day after day. It is easy to be discouraged if we want results too quickly. It is critical to love what you do. Never use money as a motivator. Follow your passion is my motto. Success will flow from passion.
What projects in the entertainment world have you been working on and can you tell us about one of your favourite memories and some wisdom you took away from them?
Change of Our Lives was a community project that was sponsored by The Cancer Council NSW. The feature film was screened at Hoyts cinemas with over 600 people attending the premier. Being able to connect with passionate people and those that want to make a difference in the world was very memorable for me. I am blessed to have made friends for life though the project and have to credit them for helping me succeed.
What are you working on next?
I am signed now to London Management Group and am waiting for what exciting things that have planned for me. So far it has been parties and photoshoots. I guess things can only get better from here.
If you had a dream project to work on next, say in acting, what type of role would it be and what kind of story?
My dream role is to be in the Fast and Furious series. I have always looked up to the actor that plays the character Han. It would be cool if I could play his little martial art fanatic brother that enters the car scene and gets caught in all sorts of dramas.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to get into the arts, modelling and entertainment world?
Always remember where you came from and the people that got you there. Aside from that, it is a tough world. Keep your head up high, work on your craft and remember that success takes time.
The best thing in life is to be able to give and help others as much as possible.Very few people are ‘overnight successes’. One of the keys to success for most people is hard work.
More broadly, who have been some of the most important people to you in your journey so far?
AAFFN interview with Barton Williams
by Indigo Willing
An orphan from the world’s largest humanitarian adoption program in 1975 called OPERATION BABYLIFT, Huynh Van Cuong as he was known then was airlifted in a cardboard box to Australia. Adopted into an Australian family and raised in Adelaide South Australia, Barton brings a wealth of acting and life experience to his name. With a B.Ed./B.T and as a former professional water skier, surf lifesaver and martial artist Barton has an array of high level specialty skills. Starting at the tender age of 10 years old Barton has been acting in front of the camera and on stage across South Australia and New South Wales. Barton was trained professionally as an actor at ACTT (Actors College of Theatre and Television) and as a TV presenter at NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art). Barton has an extensive range of TV (Home & Away Rescue Special Ops), Film (Motherfish & The Battle of Long Tan) and Theatre (A Quiet Night in Rangoon, How to lose sight) credits to his name. In addition to this Barton is a published children’s author and a producer of kids TV show, OFF THE SHELF.
What kinds of challenges have you ever faced being accepted as Aussie boy growing up here?
Having White Anglo Saxon (adoptive) parents, I was exposed to non traditional sports and activities such as acting at a young age, surf life saving ‘nippers’ for kids and water skiing. Whilst I never received a lot of harassment, I did feel like I didn’t belong at times. As all the other so called ‘Asian’ kids did ‘different’ things, it made me feel a little weird.
How has the Vietnam War and your experience as an adopted orphan given you any special direction or insight as an actor and creative artist?
It has allowed me to really understand that behaving like a character overrides how you look as a character. Don’t judge a book by its cover until you see how they behave! Always expect the unexpected and don’t always see the unknown as a bad thing.
You were the subject of a film (Precious Cargo) about your biography as a Vietnamese adoptee. What was it like developing that story with Blue Lucine? How was it knowing someone else would act as you?
Blue Lucine has been pivotal in allowing me to celebrate my adoption. She taught me and through research educated on a things that I have in the past ignored. Seeing other actors act as me or my family was surreal at first but made me incredibly proud too. This was particularly noted because Blue made a point of taking parts of my doco verbatim.
You are also a filmmaker, with a short film ‘To The Rescue’ which recently won the Encouragement Award at The Joy House Film Festival in September 2014 in Sydney. How did that come about and did you draw from your personal experiences as a life saver and having grown up around the beach culture?
Ha ha ha… “To the Rescue” is actual a concept from a show that I use to produce. Yes, as a former active life saver at Coogee I wanted to share the wonderful service that SLSA and Westpac provide every day in order to help keep our community safe.
Who are some of your key influences or inspirations so far as feeling diversity is appreciated on the screen and on stage in Australia?
Where do I start? Khoa Do (Ahn Do’s brother) holds a special place within me, he cast me many years ago in his feature film MOTHERFISH in which I played a Thai Police officer. His gentle nature and creative genius inspires me without a doubt.
Then there are directors like Peter Andrikitis who I love their work and opportunities they provide for casting diversity. Anthony Brandon Wong is the most beautiful and inspiring actor of all time for me. I worked with him briefly on the ABC’s Maximum Choppage which was lovely because prior to that experience it has been during his workshops. Andy Minh Trieu the SBS Pop Asia god and Kitchen Whiz Ninja inspires me daily. His humble warm personality is always so appealing, even since we first worked on a HOT LIES (band) music clip years ago!
Finally, Felino Delloso, the king of screen and TV. This guy is truly amazing, fun, talented and all round great guy. I was blessed to work with him on a play years ago A QUIET NIGHT IN RANGOON and we even worked on Khoa Do’s feature film MOTHERFISH too.
That’s an awesome list, almost a Who’s Who right now of Asian Australian talent. Any other Asian Australians who you recently took away some wisdom from?
The lovely Ivy Mak, worked with her last week, she plays my wife on a new SBS drama called “The Principal”, starring Alex Dimitriades. Ivy taught me that you can be absolutely beautiful, talented, intelligent and a nice person too…!
Let’s broaden the question to more universal themes. Name some other favourite actors of any heritage, films etc and why?
Sooo many… Joel Edgerton and Nash Edgerton, why? Aussie born and bread. Such good physical actors both on the screen and stage. Saw Joel in A streetcar named desire and was in awe!
Cate Blanchett because she is faultless….and soooo grounded…a rarity for such an A-list actress.
Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers….why? because they just let their creative juices flourish and go against the norm which in turn creates stories on film that have us on the edge of our seat.
What’s some advice you can give others wanting to get on the screen and represent and tell a story?
Hmmmm……work hard….work hard…and be motivated by the chance of success rather than the fear of failure!
What’s one of your best memories as an actor or director?
Hmmmmm……stage memory would have to be a play I did out in Parramatta with the wickedly talented Polish director Michal Imielski. The production took place in 4 rooms of a house in which guests were led through. One of my scenes involved being pushed up against a glass window…yes…I went through it and it cut my right shoulder….and yes we kept running with it.
Hmmmmmm film/TV…..probably RESCUE SPECIAL OPS when director Jeremy Sims had mistaken me for the stunt driver…lol!
Hmmmmm Producing an episode of my kids show where I ran around with the Sydney Swans at the SCG dressed as the character BOULDER complete with shoulder pads and a wrestling belt and headband!
Barton also recently features in DESENSE
What’s next for you? Where can we see you or your work on the screen or stage?
Just about to head to QLD in 2 days for a war documentary being shot in Queensland. Then in December back to SBS’ new drama THE PRINCIPAL to work with my lovely wife IVY MAK…making out scene…..doh….no jokes…working with her again which will be fun. Small role on Home & Away as Dr. Nugyen which airs in February. Wish they’d give me the doctor role with surfing at Summer Bay?
I also start rehearsing for a play in early 2015 called DEAD TIME written and produced by the lovely and talented Fleur Beaupert….oh and maybe Peter Andrikidis or Quentin Tarantino might ring me next year….ha ha ha ha ha ha
Sure, we sure think those directors need to call, call now!
The likes of Tarantino, and you dear readers, can see Barton and Andy Trieu having a good ol’ biff below:
All photos used were supplied by Mr Williams for this interview.