Diversity Spotlight – Interview with actor Max Brown

MaxBrown02

Max Brown is an Asian Australian actor (half Chinese-Singaporean / Anglo-Australian) known for his television roles as Robin Dawal in Neighbours, David Goldman in Glitch Series 2 and Kevin Dang in Secret City and the feature film We’re Not Here To Fuck Spiders (2017).

JOY: What made you want to get into the film/TV industry?

MAX: Story telling. Everyone in the industry has personal goals, but I reckon one thing we share is that we all watched a film or TV show at some point in our lives that had an impact on us and we’re all looking to recapture the moment that moved us and give it back to audiences through story.

JOY: Who were your role models growing up & why?

MAX: I was a bit starved for Asian representation so I grew up identifying with the majority white characters and actors on my screen, but thanks to my Aunty bringing over Hong Kong DVDS when she visited, I got to grow up watching Brigette Linn and Adam Cheng. That recent scandal where the Hollywood Casting Director said Asian actors were expressionless? They obviously never got to see Adam’s charm or Brigette’s depth and presence on screen. I watched their movies again and again as a kid and I still have them on high rotation today. I’ll also add Dante Brasco from Hook as a childhood role model! Such a bad ass. Ru-fi-ooo!

MaxBrown04

JOY: How did you get started in your career?

MAX: I actually wanted to be a director and someone told me the best directors knew how actors worked, so I took a part time NIDA course which was being taught by Sam Worthington; he ended up convincing me to ditch directing and give acting a go. My first professional gig was a small part on Home and Away, which involved some complex blocking with cars and guns on my first day…it was a steep learning curve!

JOY: Do you think there’s a positive change in the TV/Film industries for more diversity?

MAX: A lot of actor friends from diverse backgrounds who were struggling for ages are now getting auditions and booking roles and that’s not because they all coincidentally became better actors overnight, it’s because diverse roles are finally starting to be written. The key word there is “starting”. It’s not just about upping the numbers but specifically writing characters that challenge preconceptions across all minorities. I’ve still had to say no to racially stereotypical roles as recently as this year…so we still have a long way to go until we achieve true parity in the industry. But we’re on the right path.

Max Brown01

JOY: Who inspires you in the industry?

MAX: All my friends in this industry inspire me, because I see their constant struggle to be recognised and contribute. Watching them hold down multiple day jobs, deal with the constant rejection and disappointment while still pushing themselves to improve…that always amazes and inspires me.

JOY: What are you working on now?

MAX: Wrapped a small role on the second season of the ABC Netflix series Glitch earlier this year and just got back from LA where I was in the final rounds for a lead character in a TV new series.That was an opportunity that came about partly due to the push for diversity we’ve seen recently, they’re definitely looking for more Asian faces on screen internationally. Coming up, I have a role in a queer short film starring Ra Chapman from new director Chloe Wong. It’s a great script that pokes at society’s views on queer behaviour.

JOY: What is your dream role & why?

MAX: I’d like to remake one of those old Hong Kong movies like “Lover Beware” or “Swordsman II” which also starred Brigette- I think there’s nothing like them in the west and I’d love to bring the ideas and themes from the Chinese fantasy genre to a new viewership. Hero and Crouching Tiger opened that door but they both portray a very stoic interpretation of Asian heroic fiction, and I think the “smiling wanderer” trope would be fresh. It would be interesting to see how the role of a gender fluid character like the Dongfang Bubai would be cast today.

JOY: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time? What do you think you’ll be doing?

MAX: Hopefully I’ll be a lot healthier than I am now haha. But I’m the worst with plans…I have no idea what next year looks like let alone 10! Helping to redefine the depiction of Asians in Western media and diversity in general, would be great.

JOY: What’s your advice for graduates / up and coming actors trying to get in the industry?

MAX: I’ve heard people call acting a marathon, and I reckon that’s good advice. Beyond talent and skill, succeeding in this business is about not giving up and outlasting those who do. Its hard and you’re going to hate it and have no money a lot of the time, but f you want it bad enough, you’ll eventually get a chance. Never give up and be ready for it when it comes.

 

Advertisements

The Casting Game (feature film) by Joy Hopwood

The Casting Game poster sml

The Casting Game is an ensemble piece that highlights the journeys of a group of unconventional actors trying to make it big in Sydney, an Asian-Australian family trying to make a visiting relative feel at home with Might- T- mite and meat pies, and a seemingly ill-fated love.

Gary is a 35-year-old brick layer who has had no luck in love. On a night out with his high school mates – Lynn, Indigo, and Luke – he ends up in a bet to see if he can land a date with the next woman he sees. Along comes Sarah, a beautiful radio producer who is in a wheelchair.

Stacey Copas by Cassie Bedford sml

In a Love Actually meets Muriel’s Wedding in a modern day twist, this film explores what it means to find happiness and joy in a diverse, dynamic world, in a beautifully fun and meaningful way.

An Aussie story full of heart and triumph amongst a diverse group of friends, The Casting Game is a relatable story that tugs at our heartstrings while making us laugh. It reminds us that we can find belonging in unexpected places.

The Casting Game with director Pearl Tan sml

Writer / producer, Joy Hopwood, wrote the screenplay just under two weeks after watching an Australian film last September in 2016 and was inspired to write something just as good with diversity at the forefront!

“In our current modern society, I feel that it’s driven by ego, self importance and over evaluation, this film takes us on a journey and reminds us, in a subtle way, what it’s like to step in other people’s shoes from all walks of life and to be mindful of others. I feel that’s what our society is missing – mindfulness and humility. My aim is to entertain people yet bringing that sense of community back into our society, which I feel is desperately missing,” says Joy.

Stacey Copas & Cast at Christmas pre show

Leading lady, Stacey Copas says, “when Joy asked me to act in her film at our first meeting together I couldn’t believe what an amazing an opportunity it was and I pretty much jumped at the opportunity right away! I’m passionate about everyone getting an equal opportunity and I’m so inspired by Joy and the whole team who have poured blood, sweat and tears into getting the project off the ground. Our camaraderie and joint purpose on set can definitely been seen in the final edit. I’m really proud of the Casting Game; its beautifully told story which everyone will be able to relate to.”

Erica Long and puppets sml

Supporting actress Erica Long says, “During my script read, I found that with every page I turned, I became more and more immersed in the characters’ lives. The characters are all so different (in terms of their personality, ethnicity and personal background) and I loved reading about how they interacted with each other – it’s not everyday that you read a script, which reflects our multicultural society. There’s also so much warmth and hilarity in the script – I knew instantly that I wanted to be a part of the transformation from paper to screen. Pearl Tan (director) and Joy Hopwood (producer, writer and actor) are champions of diversity in this country and you really see this come across in The Casting Game. Joy specifically incorporated into her script a group of friends from different ethnic backgrounds, an intelligent and beautiful woman with a mobility disability, 2 Australian-Chinese sisters (who are more Aussie than Chinese!) and their long lost sister from China. It’s quite a feat! The different characters’ backgrounds of course contribute to the story but the characters are not reduced to a stereotype (e.g. your Asian nerd). During rehearsals we created each character’s own backstory and Joy was happy to make our suggested script changes to ensure that we were each happy with the complexity of our characters. When you watch the film, you will see that Joy has weaved a series of funny and nuanced stories together into a coherent whole and, simply put, you will forget about “diversity” as such – the end result of Joy’s hard work is that you just focus on how the characters interact with each other.”

Nicholas Brown sml on set - The Casting Game. Photo by Cassie Bedford

When asked, “Why did you want to act in The Casting Game?” Supporting actor Nicholas Brown says, “I’ve been a fan of Joy Hopwood and Pearl Tan for a long time. I met Joy several years ago when we both made speeches for the Asian Alliance for parliament We both found a synergy because of our experiences as non Caucasian actors in Australia. Pearl and I have written and worked together for several years. I’m inspired by both of these amazing women, their advocacy and their creativity. Besides fluffing I’d do anything on film for them! Plus it’s rare to see a cast so diverse in Aussie cinema. The fact that there’s no major reference to anyone’s ethnicity is refreshing. The cast are all Australian who just happen to be from diverse backgrounds. My character is a brickie! I love that. The actors have been cast against type and this is exciting and rare.”

The Casting Game, written & produced by Joy Hopwood (Joy House Productions) and produced by Priya Roy (Vissi D’Arte Films) and directed by Pearl Tan (Pearly Productions) premieres at the annual Joy House Film Festival September 10th, 2017. 4.30pm at Hoyts https://Joyhousefilmfestival.eventbrite.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Stacey Copas about her latest film and diversity.

 

stacey 1

How did your acting career begin?

I’m currently in the midst of my first acting gig – a totally newbie to the world of acting. I’m playing the role of Sarah in the feature film “The Casting Game”. I was initially approached to consider the role via a LinkedIn message which was totally unexpected.

Who were your role models growing up?

As a young person I was mostly drawn to athletes and musicians – neither of which I actually aspired to be. There certainly weren’t any diverse role models who represented my own diversity in any area of public life I was aware of.

Stacey 2

Do you think there are enough diverse representations on TV / Film?

There is a lack of diversity in TV and film. Who we see on screens does not represent who we see in the community in our daily life. I feel having roles written that are specifically for diverse characters will help to improve this. Also having viewers support TV and film with diverse characters/casting and demand more diversity will help.

What are you currently working on?

Currently preparing for the feature film “The Casting Game” in which I play the lead role of Sarah. It is exciting to be part of a project that has a very diverse cast and crew. As a person who uses a wheelchair it is fabulous to be cast in the role as the majority of characters with disability in TV and film are played by actors without disability.

Stacey Copas high res headshot (1)

What more do you want to achieve in your career?

Being such early days, I’m looking forward to exploring a variety of roles that will challenge me and tell great stories.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years time and why?

In 10 years time I would like to be continuing to stretch my comfort zones in all areas of life. By being the best person, speaker, athlete – and actor I can be I hope to inspire others to aim higher and dream bigger and to be the person with a disability with a strong public profile who can be the role model that I lacked as a young person.

Chimerica review – Sydney Theatre Company’s best production

chimericanew_716x403

Last night I was honoured to attend a special preview performance of Sydney Theatre Company’s Chimerica. I have to say that this is Sydney Theatre Company’s best production yet. I was blown away by not only the script but also by the performance of the whole cast, stage direction and especially the set transitions that looked more like a well choreographed dance. There were also a few wonderful elements of theatre magic incorporated into the show.

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-7-04-53-am

Chimerica is a play by the British dramatist Lucy Kirkwood directed by Kip Williams. It draws its title from the term Chimerica, referring to the predominance of China and America in modern geopolitics. It tracks two decades of complex US-China relations alongside the personal stories that exist beyond the margins of history. It’s a gripping drama, has a touch of romance, and has great comedy – all in one. One of my favourite lines is, “be careful of your tooth” …”you can’t handle the truth!” The whole audience erupted into laughter at this scene and Gabrielle Chan’s money exchange scene and many more.

a.jpg  b.jpg

Award-winning Artistic Director Kip Williams (All My Sons) directs a visually enthralling Australian premiere of this captivating epic which takes the audience on an emotional journey that leaves you in awe by his directorial vision and strong performance of the cast. After winning Helpmann Awards in 2016 for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, Mark Leonard Winter (King Lear) features as the photojournalist at the centre of the action, together with Jason Chong (Netflix’s Marco Polo), and a magnificent ensemble cast who are joined by 20 young artists from the National Institute of Dramatic Art.

Mesmerising performances by the cast – Matthew Backer, Gabrielle Chan, Jason Chong, Tony Cogin, Geraldine Hakewill, Brent Hill, Rebecca Massey, Monica Sayers, Mark Leonard Winter, Anthony Brandon Wong, Charles Wu & Jenny Wu.

This is theatre at its best. It’s visually stimulating and leaves the audience in awe by the cast’s performance and a well written script. Congratulations to Kip Williams and the cast & ensemble cast. This is a 10/10 production.

 

 

One of my favourite places in the world – Kings Park

Whenever I go to Perth and need some time to myself, I head to Kings Park. This amazing park has been my favourite since I was a child. Kings Park helps me clear my mind, and relax, escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday city life. It was originally opened in 1965 and has been one of my favourite parks in the world. I would rate it an equal first to New York’s Central Park. When you stand opposite the modern Fraser’s restaurant, you can see the spectacular views of Perth city and the Swan and Manning rivers.

1450067_10200736713740741_22940346_n

What I love best about King’s Park is the Botanical Gardens. There’s 17 hectares of wonderful garden displays to enjoy and has the largest display of Western Australian flora in the world. One of my favourite garden displays is the Conservation Garden. The plants are grouped according to their region or type of country and was designed to preserve Western Australia’s precious biodiversity. I love taking photographs of these garden displays, enjoying the beautiful colours.

 

Also when I need time out to clear my head, I like going on long bush walks in Kings Park. There’s the Bushland Nature Trail which is about a 1km loop walk with raised sections of boardwalk and is assessable to all the park users. When you take this walk you would need to wear appropriate footwear as it’s very sandy and bushy. I like taking my time doing this bush walk and just stroll, enjoying the peacefulness and mother nature at its best. Many others who visit this area like to exercise by jogging or cycling by.

Screen shot 2015-04-12 at 6.10.40 PM

Kings Park also has two wonderful art galleries. First, the Aboriginal Art Gallery which has traditional Aboriginal art exhibited. It has beautiful paintings, sculptures and sometimes pottery. And on some days you can actually meet the Aboriginal artists and observe them as they work or listen to their intriguing stories. It transports me to their land whenever I go inside and talk to them. This gallery has a high reputation and is substantially recognised in the Aboriginal community and amongst collectors of fine Indigenous art from around the world. There’s also the Aspects of Kings Park Gallery, which is more modern and commercial. I love spending a good hour here, looking at their unusual gift collections. They have unique books, homewares, jewellery, stationery – especially cards and trinkets. I always end up buying one or two items here for my friends as gifts.

 

Whenever family and friends arrive to visit me in Perth, I always take them to the Botanical Cafe for lunch and we can just sit outdoors for a good two hours and talk and enjoy the view over Perth city and the Swan River. They’re open from 7am to 6pm, breakfast, lunch and dinner. My favourite food on their menu is the Beef burger and the beer battered fish and chips. They’re both priced around the $20 mark and are delicious. All my family and friends who dine here with me say this is one of their favourite dining out places in Perth, not only because of the company, but because of the good service and the outdoor views – it’s spacious and the decor is casual, giving you that home-away from home feeling.

 

For families with children, there are a lot of picnic areas around the beautiful fountains and gardens and a lot of people pack blankets and picnic baskets full of foodie treats and enjoy the trees and just sit and talk for hours. This is total bliss for me. Personally I love lying down on the luscious green grass and breathing in the fresh outdoor air. And depending on what season you visit Kings Park, you can sometimes smell flowers like lavender. Research shows that the scent of flowers and walking through nature, like a park, can help you feel calmer and happier and that spending time in fresh air, surrounded by nature, increases energy in 90 percent of people. “Nature is fuel for the soul, ” says Richard Ryan (Researcher and Professor of Psychology).

 

So, if you’re ever heading to Perth and need time out to relax….head on down to Kings Park for the day. There’s so much to do and explore. I highly recommend this – it’s one of my favourite places in the world!

Interview with Australian actor Belinda Jombwe about her new role

Belinda Jombwe studied at NIDA and is known for her outstanding theatre work in Black Jesus (Bakehouse Theatre) as Eunice Ncube, Beth in Samson (Belvoir) and Winnie in My Wonderful Day (Ensemble Theatre Co) and many more. She’s working in an upcoming Australian feature film, The Casting Game (directed by Pearl Tan).

belinda-jombwe-head-sml-shot-2

Qu.1. How did you start your acting career?

I have always had a love for the arts, particularly acting. From a young age I was heavily involved in drama classes inside and outside of school. When I graduated from year 12 I moved to Sydney on a whim to pursue acting as a career. I studied performance at Sydney Uni, and was involved in a lot of fringe theatre at the Australian Theatre for Young People and New theatre. What started my professional career was the opportunity I had at Ensemble theatre in ‘My Wonderful Day’ to play Winnie. The ball kind of got rolling from there. To this day it’s one of the most memorable ensembles and productions I have ever been in.

Qu.2. Who were your role models on TV/Film when you were growing up and why?

There are many actors who I found inspirational growing up and continue to find inspirational. Actors like Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington to name a few. I find their dedication to their craft and their ability to transform into other worlds while maintaining an uncompromising sense of self quite amazing.

My ‘role models’ have been influential more in my adult years. Women like Viola Davis and Kerry Washington I look up to. Through their career progression and outspokenness in the industry, they have profoundly shaped the perspective I have of myself as an actor. They are strong, black women, and they inspire me to challenge myself and stereotypes, and it’s refreshing to see them play roles that are complex and not dependant on the way they look.  I think naturally we find role models in people who we strongly identify with. In people who motivate us to be better people.

belinda-jombwe-2-sml

Qu.3. Do you think there are enough diverse roles for people of colour in Australian TV / Film?

Haha, No. I think there will be enough diverse roles for people of colour (and all other minority groups) in Australian TV/Film when diversity isn’t even a thing. When TV and film reflects our unique and multifaceted society and where diversity on TV/film becomes just a way of life. We have a long way to go, but I’m happy that we are going in the right direction. I think it’s everyone’s collective responsibility to continually improve this. Every person has a way in which they can make diversity more mainstream. Casting agents, writers, networks, producers, actors and audiences can all contribute to making diversity more mainstream by the choices they make and what they choose to accept.

Qu.4. What would your ideal role be and why?

I always have trouble answering this question. I don’t  have an ideal role in terms of the ‘type’ of person I would like to play. As ultimately, I believe all characters I play reveal a unique aspect of myself. Any role in which I get to explore, play and have a positive impact is ideal.

belinda-jombwe-headshot-3-sml

Qu.5. What’s your next exciting project?

The Casting Game. A film written by Joy Hopwood and directed by Pearl Tan. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s hilarious, and there is a great team behind it.

Qu.6. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

Passionate about life, family and friends. Ambitious to learn and grow.

casting-game-sml

The Casting Game (directed by Pearl Tan) will be premiering on Sunday, September 10th at Hoyts Mandarin Centre, closing the annual Joy House Film Festival, Level 3, 65 Albert Ave, Chatswood NSW 2067.

 

Interview with 16 year old published author Malaika Gilani

m

Malaika Gilani is a 16 year old published author. She is a go getter and very motivated, so motivated that she contacted me to interview her for my blog. She has been writing short stories and poems for her school newsletters and magazines and is a Pakistani Citizen who currently resides in Melbourne with her family.

How did you start your writing career? ( & what inspired you?)

So we had a subject called personal learning in Yr 8 and we had an assignment we were to write five poems. I wrote those and enjoyed it. When people read them they liked it. A lot of people talked to me about problems like friends family etc. You cant keep everything in. So when people told me I had a hard time keeping it in like some people have such difficulties getting where they are, but instead of being happy about the progress they get embarrassed. So I started writing poetry to let those journeys out, and when people read them they felt better. So it sort of became a thing.

As I moved on with life I realised a lot of these problems we face are the same. Trouble with friends, feeling etc. So I decided to get the message across by getting a book published so more people could read.

What writers / authors inspire you and why?

Every author inspires me as they all start at the bottom. For writing everyone has to start at the bottom. Its amazing where people end up.

m2

How did you get your book, Untold Journeys, published by A&A Publishers?

I got rejected a few times, accepted by a few place but things didn’t work out. Then I met Joy, my agent from A&A Publishers. Things worked out from there. The rejections didn’t pull me down. I took them as a sign from God that I wasn’t ready. The first offer I got was in 2015. Back then I didn’t even have half the poems I do right now. Things didn’t work out etc. I was pretty crushed at first but now when I look back i see things are just how they are supposed to be. God has a plan. If I had published in 2015 me and my readers would have missed out on some amazing journeys.

What topics inspire you to write about and why?

Well everyday problems. As people feel embarrassed talking about them! I beg to differ. Everyone has family problems and problems with dating etc. So I want to voice these opinions and show people what society says does not matter.

What advice would you give to other writers?

Keep trying. If you get rejected its for your own good. Remember to have faith because God has bigger plans for you 🙂

What is your next writing project?

Currently focussing on Yr 12 so I will take a break.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

I see a forensic psychiatrist and an inspirational author!