Film Review: Hearts Beat Loud

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Hearts Beat Loud is a wonderful light hearted comedy set in Brooklyn about an ageing hipster musician who forms an unlikely band with his daughter before she heads off into college.

Frank (Nick Offerman) is a longtime widower and single father who runs a struggling record store in Red Hook, Brooklyn which he’s about to lose due to the lack of customers, and despite the support from his landlord love interest Leslie (Toni Collette).

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During a weekly jam session with his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons), Frank secretly records a song they did and loads it up on a streaming service which becomes a hit. His only challenge is to convince Sam to give up college so they can give their band a shot.

Frank is faced with life challenges – his on again off again relationship with Leslie and his shoplifting mother who has early signs of dementia.

Heats Beat Loud has a wonderful supporting cast which includes: Ted Danson, Sasha Lane and Blythe Danner. This is a wonderful comedy with great natural performances from the whole cast. The music is catchy but not too commercial, written by Keegan DeWitt and performed by the two stars. 8/10

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Photos by Eric Lin/GunPowder & Sky and Hearts Beat Loud.

Directed by Brett HaleyDrama, 1hour 37m

Diversity Spotlight interview with filmmaker – Matthew Victor Pastor

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Matthew Victor Pastor (MVP) is an Australian filmmaker of Filipino heritage. An alumnus of the prestigious Victorian College of the Arts, his Master’s film I am JUPITER I am the BIGGEST PLANET (part 1 of the Filipino-Australian trilogy) was awarded Best Director. Bill Mousoulis the founding editor of Senses of Cinema has described Pastor as “the most dynamic young filmmaker I’ve come across in 35 years of indie film watching in Australia.”
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In 2013 he released MADE IN AUSTRALIA an independent feature film. It was awarded Best Guerrilla Film at the 14th Melbourne Underground Film Festival. In 2017 he released BUTTERFLY FLOWER (71 mins), an experimental feature film. At the 2018 Sinag Maynila Film Festival MELODRAMA / RANDOM / MELBOURNE! (81 mins), was awarded Best Original Score, and was met with positive reviews in Rappler amongst other publications. A pending release is MAGANDA: Pinoy Boy vs Milk Man (97 mins). These two films conclude the Filipino-Australian trilogy. Also in post-production is Repent or Perish (85 mins), which is the story of a young gay Filipino-Australian and his conservative family during the 2017 same-sex marriage plebiscite. I had the privilege to interview him for this month’s Diversity Spotlight.
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JH: What is your approach in order to make an outstanding three features in 15 months?

MVP: Social media and human are one. It’s how we communicate, and our news feed is directly linked to our emotions. It was while making MELODRAMA / RANDOM / MELBOURNE! (2018) a feature about relationships in the digital age, I decided to transform into a filmmaking machine. I threw away the conventions of filmmaking to be freer. In some way we are all now content creators, we are always making video and image for our audience. My preferred content is a narrative film, the ultimate status update!

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JH: What would most people like to know is how do you find funding for your film? Do you fund them with your own money or is it mainly sponsorships and grants?

MVP: Although I’ve received grants in the past, at this output it’s recently privately or self-funded. The positives about this method are that I keep 100% creative integrity. Melodrama is about a Filipino feminist documentarian and the misguided men around her, MAGANDA! Is about a drug-addicted filmmaker,Repent or Perish! Is about a young gay Filipino, his drug dealing sister and was made during the SSM plebiscite. We have just finished filming A Bigger Jail, about a violent man (who likens himself to an ‘Asian Jesus’) who is released from prison after 20 years. For these stories to be done justice with authenticity, our team needs complete creative control, something we retain since we do it modestly.

JH: Who were your role models growing up? 

MVP: It’s probably been said too many times but man, Jackie Chan. In terms of my aesthetic Shunji Iwai (Film Director).

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JH: How do you find your stories?

MVP: I feel if I’m not emotional about a topic it won’t have weight on the screen. For example with one of my soon to be released features Repent or Perish! (2018) we literally filmed during the SSM plebiscite. It was during an argument with my conservative Christian parents I decided to save my anger and frustration and write a script. Completed in February I am so proud of our brave Asian-Australian cast for telling a story that needs be told.

 JH: What makes a good film script? What motivates you to produce it?

MVP: If the idea has a visceral reaction in me, it’s worth pursuing. Recently my trigger emotion is fear, so I write from anxiety and fear. I’ve found solace for my own pain through watching films that I relate to, so this is my way of giving back.

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JH: What is your casting process?

MVP: Casting actors from our finally growing pool of talent in Melbourne has always been a tough process (especially with Asians)! I have a family of brave diverse actors who I’d like to do a shout out to. Celina Yuen, Alfred Nicdao, Bridget O’Brien, Yuchen Wang, Chi Nguyen, Kevin Pham, Slone Sudiro, Glenn Maynard, Joseph J, Rachel E. Zuasola, Michelle Ryel, Carol Pastor, Lisac Pham, Elliot Ng, Charlie Dao, Charlotte Nicdao, Khoa, Rachel Cecilio & Berlin Lu. When making a new film I cast from the family, and ask these people whom I trust for recommendations.

JH: What do you think about the state of Australian films and TV at the moment in terms of diversity? Do you think there’s been a change in recent years?

MVP: I’m seeing so much talent and it makes my job as a writer/director much easier. Are these talent getting a chance? I’m more interested in truth. Representing truth in the story comes from POC writers/producers/actors living inside their skin day in and out and telling it how it is. Movies like Crazy Rich Asians or shows like Fresh off the Boat mean so much to our growing communities and globally! We need more truth in Australia. Take a walk around Melbourne and see the truth. Take the truth and compare that with what gets screen time in mainstream media. Our eyes don’t lie.

JH: What is your current project?

MVP: We have just finished our first feature for 2018 titled A Bigger Jail (aka misery extravaganza) The film stars fellow VCA graduate Yuchen Wang amongst an amazing ensemble cast of Asian Australians. As for the second half of the year, I will head up to Sydney to collaborate with fellow Filipino-Aussie Felino Dolloso, who has written a great story which he will also star in!

JH: What is your goal? Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

MVP: Dead or a filmmaker. My goal is to live for another 10 years!

 

Photos were provided courtesy of Zhuo Yang, Evangeline Yin & Matthew Victor Pastor.

Diversity Spotlight: Interview with Andy Trieu (SBS)

Andy Trieu, is an Australian host, actor and martial artist. He was born in Canberra, Australia to Vietnamese parents. Originally a martial artist, Andy expanded his repertoire from competing in tournaments to performing in roles across stage and screen. He has acted and presented on the on programmes such as Kitchen Whiz as the Kitchen Ninja, minor role in Rescue: Special Ops and Crime Investigations. He has also appeared on SBS network shows Houso’s, Bollywood Star and is a current a host on SBS PopAsia. He also acted in the 2015 ABC TV comedy Maximum Choppage as Fury and has just finished a comedy series for Channel Ten called “Street Smart” which  airs in August.

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

ANDY: Jackie Chan! I watched a lot of Kung fu movies.

I first got cast in a small Martial Arts film and I caught the performing bug from there. I also got my start being a Ninja on a kids TV show,  “Kitchen Whiz” . After 495 episodes there was no turning back… Ninjas don’t turn back.

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

ANDY: Jackie Chan!

But when I started my career in presenting I looked up to Anh Do. He’s had a great career playing roles that suited his personality and skill sets and I guess I wanted that.

He was such a household name that you could tell people you were “Trying to Anh Do” if they asked you about future aspirations.

I also like a lot of the SBS presenters like Lee Lin Chin,  Marc Fennell, Jan Fran, Mark Humphries. They do great work and it’s very inspiring.

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JOY: How did you get started in your career?

ANDY: Well I had time and I said “Yes” A LOT. If anyone had something for me to do I would do it…hold a boom pole, be a camera assistant, dance like monkey… I would do it. I eventually built up a portfolio of work and got an agent and started landing work after every first audition.. BOOM! Just kidding…it took me more than 30 auditions before I could land an acting job and those roles were like “Asian Tourist Guy 2”. #livingthedream

Saying “Yes” and dancing like a monkey eventually helped me build contacts in the industry and I was given the opportunity to work on projects like Tomorrow When the War Began, Wolverine, Hacksaw Ridge, and finally Home and Away (Asian Tourist Guy 2). Getting my start in TV has been thanks to the good people I’ve met that believed in my weirdness. Those people for me were producers Matthew Boughen and Monica O’Brien who gave me opportunities on commercial networks and Maddy Fryer at SBS.

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

ANDY: Yes! There is definitely a demand for ethnic stories and diverse faces on screen that reflect our community. It’s looking up every year, more contributions of a diversity of cultures to the continuing development of Australian society.

JOY: What are you working on now?

ANDY: I just completed a comedy series for Channel Ten called “Street Smart” which  airs in August! I’m also coming on my 5th year at SBS, hosting and creating segments for SBS PopAsia, Australia’s number #1 destination for Asian Pop and Pop culture. Other than that a Kung fu TV show in the pipeline 😉

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JOY: What is your dream role & why?

ANDY: Other than my amazing job right now I have two. One would be to lead an action Kung fu comedy show and the other would be to host a fun lifestyle travel program. I think boarding these two projects would seem like I had gone full circle.

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

ANDY: I’ll stil be here buddy…still here explaining to my parents why I don’t have a real job.

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

ANDY: I would say take control. Start building a portfolio of work, whether that’s creating it for youtube or helping others with their projects.

Get out there and meet people. You never know, you might meet someone that recognises your potential and are willing to make sacrifices to see you get there.

Finally, work on yourself. Take Acting classes, yoga, gym, pilates, meditation, pole dancing….wait. Focus on staying positive and oozing good energy because that will make you amazing to work with!

Anyway hope to see you on set.

Photos courtesy of Andy Trieu.

Theatre Review: Going Down written by Michele Lee

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Michele Lee is to be congratulated for writing a brilliant play, Going Down which cleverly deals with topical issues in a comical way. The main one being whether writers from migrant backgrounds should be forced into writing migrant stories that don’t belong to them. That is something which Natalie Yang, (played by Catherine Davies) a Hmong-Australian writer, is faced with.

Natalie goes on a book tour all the way to rural Victoria to promote her memoir, Banana Girl which receives a lukewarm reception by her audience of three, who is horrified by the amount of sex involved. They point out how much they admire Lu Lu Jayadi (played by Jenny Wu), whose memoir about her experiences as a refugee has made her a literary icon and why doesn’t she do the same? Natalie rejects the migrant narrative and decides, while on a wild night out with her friends Tilda (Naomi Rukavina) and Matt (Paul Blenheim), to write about her sex life and makes the brash decision to write 100 cocks in 100 nights. 

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Catherine Davies is outstanding, playing super energised Natalie, which is like watching her run a marathon throughout the play, due to her highly physical performance. It’s not until the end when Natalie reunites with her mother that we see a softer, gentler, empathetic side to her character. Jenny Wu is also to be commended for her versatility in playing multiple roles that are distinctive – I loved watching her play Lu Lu Jayadi (Natalie’s arch-nemesis) to a poor homeless woman to Natalie’s mother. Naomi Rukavina gives a powerful performance as Natalie’s friend. A wonderful touching moment is when she mops up Natalie’s face after she’s just barfed up a donut – here the tone of the play changes to a more peaceful one. Josh Price is hilarious and adds additional comedic undertones to the play. Paul Blenheim gives a convincing performance as Tilda’s on again, off again boyfriend.

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I loved the clever set design by The Sister Hayes, with the pull out bed under the stairs of the stage and the projection of tweets and texts. Congratulations to Leticia Caceres for directing such a entertaining play – the performances of the actors and the staging were outstanding.

8 / 10

Photos courtesy of Sydney Theatre Co

Sydney Theatre Company’s Going Down is at Wharf 2 Theatre until May 5 

Writers Actors Talk about diversity and change with Joy Hopwood, Alice Pung and Aileen Huynh

Joy Hopwood’s interview with Michael Wang.

Video link below

  Writers – Actors Talk (documentary) 8 mins

 

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DOCUMENTARY DIRECTED BY MICHAEL WANG.

The purpose was to create something engaging, creative and shareable that would explore themes which were important and timeless. To better inform young Australians growing up of who came before them and what lessons they can learn from those who came before them. Recognising how paths in life can be challenged and different ways pitfalls can be managed to become successful in the performance arts, publication and film/TV industry.

Michael Wang is an online digital marketer who is born and raised in Melbourne. Working at his own consultancy Marketandpress.com he creates engaging video and advertising campaigns helping businesses improve their growth. For all this work is geared towards fulfilling his greater life’s purpose of becoming a feature-length filmmaker. He is a budding filmmaker who creates unique engaging stories and pieces of content and regularly enjoys uploading them to his personal portfolio at Huristic.com

A Very Lovely thanks to the Guest Speakers: Aileen Huynh, Joy Hopwood & Alice Pung.

Produced by the Victorian Multicultural Commission in Association with Swinburne University.
Special thanks to the team: Director Of Photography Jake Evans. Advisors Vincent Giarrusso, Helen Kapalos for you guidance.

Working with Us:
Michael Wang – Michael@MarketandPress.com
https://www.instagram.com/huristic/
https://www.facebook.com/huristic.com.au/

Jake Evans (jake_evans16@hotmail.com)

Joy Hopwood – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd7E7HS4wYqGKrqisPGnHaA
https://www.instagram.com/joyhouseproductions/

Aileen Huynh – sydney@hansencreative.com.au

Helen Kapalos – https://www.multicultural.vic.gov.au/about-us/commissioners

https://www.instagram.com/multiculturevic/

Vincent Giarrusso – http://www.swinburne.edu.au/health-arts-design/staff/profile/index.php?id=vgiarrusso

Theatre Review: Black is the New White

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Black is the New White returns for 2018, after a successful season last year at Sydney Theatre Company, with all the characters we love. The only main cast change is Miranda Tapsell as the quirky fashion designer, Rose. Tapsell adds a youthful, vibrance to this season. The play is cleverly written by Nakkiah Lui who uses comedy to address serious issues affecting the Indigenous.

A comical love story about a hotshot lawyer, Charlotte Gibson, and her broke cellist, Francis Smith, who fall in love defying their parents. She is the daughter of Australia’s most prominent Aboriginal politician and he is the son of a conservative rival. The two are engaged and invite their families to meet, not knowing that their fathers are having a argument on Twitter. When they unite at a Christmas dinner, all hell breaks loose as the fathers’ long standing feud comes to a head. Secrets come pouring out and hypocrisies regarding race, gender, social class status and religion is exposed in a sharp-witted, humorous way.

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I particularly enjoyed and was entertained by Stokes’ stage entrance, Tapsell’s quirkiness and youthful energy she brought to Rose’s character and Vanessa’s final revelations, all thanks to Paige Rattray’s direction and Lui’s clever writing.

The play’s message is about class expectations, race and most of all – being true to yourself, not living according to society or family expectations.

Starring Shari Sebbens (Charlotte Gibson), Tom Stokes (Francis Smith), Tony Briggs and Melodie Reynolds-Diarra (Ray and Joan) Geoff Morrell and Vanessa Downing (Marie and Dennison Smith), Miranda Tapsell (Rose) and Anthony Taufa (Rose’s husband).

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Black is the new White is at Roslyn Packer Theatre from March 2nd, 2018.

http://www.sydneytheatre.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

Single Asian Female & interview with Courtney Stewart

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Single Asian Female opened at Belvoir St Theatre on the weekend to an excited (sold out) audience and it’s the first Australian mainstage play to feature three Asian leads! This play is stylish and entertaining. It’s about an Asian-Australian family that owns a Chinese restaurant (The Golden Phoenix) in Nambour. The head of the family is Pearl, the quintessential matriarch – balancing family, business, and her love of karaoke, who runs the restaurant. She has two daughters, Zoe, the eldest, a classical musician, who’s in the throes of online dating, making big life decisions and Mei, the youngest, a teenager, struggling with her identity in modern Australia.  Pearl is constantly questioning her Westernised daughters, as they see the world differently to their mother. In the first act she reveals a secret that threatens to tear their family apart.

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Playwright, Michelle Law’s frustration with the current theatre scene motivated her to write her debut play.

‘It shines a spotlight on labels; those we assign ourselves and others, and how we struggle against the limitations imposed by those labels in order to lead authentic lives…’

Last year, Single Asian Female was staged as a 60-minute reading of an untested playwright with support from La Boite and its partners, (Contemporary Asian Australian Performance & Playwriting Australia). Law has been given room to grow the story, and workshop it extensively. She has successfully helped change the landscape of Australian theatre which, over the years has been quintessentially white, by portraying this modern play representing multicultural Australia.

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This production is exceptionally cast, with underlying tones of racial discrimination presented in a comedic way through its characters. In the first act we see Pearl in a cheongsam belting out I Will Survive, on top of a table in her family restaurant. We then learn about her hardships, how she survived through her marriage breakup and her resilience in bringing up her two daughters. Zoe being the peacemaker, and Mei who constantly wishing she was white like her school friends, Lana and Katie.

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I had the honour of interviewing Courtney Stewart who plays Mei. Her performance was strong and truthful in playing a teenager growing up Asian in Australia.

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Joy: What made you want to do Single Asian Female?

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Courtney: After being involved in a reading of Single Asian Female, I ruthlessly pursued the development of this work. The dialogue is hilarious, the characters are unique and I believe wholeheartedly in the transformative power of this story. As a result of our season in Brisbane, there was a horde of new audience members finally seeing their faces and hearing their voices on stage. The power of representation is immense ~ and I really wanted to be a part of that.
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Joy: What did the audition process involve?
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Courtney: The audition process involved me reading a couple of scenes with Claire Christian (the director) and Michelle Law (the writer). We ended up in hysterics over the larger than life characters, but also dove into the heart wrenching reality of their personal dilemmas. Right from the start it was a collaborative process, which is by far my favourite way of making work.
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Joy: What is your view on diversity in the arts (theatre, film. T.V)?

Do you see changes since the Diversity committee was formed?
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Courtney: I say this to as many people who will listen: I believe it is the most exciting time to be an artist from a diverse background. There are opportunities that exist now that weren’t around when I started out in this industry and I can see how the Diversity Committee has been a valuable player in changing our monocultural Theatrical landscape. The Committee opens up channels of communication with major players in theatre, film and television so conversations around how to engage new artists can be had.
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Joy: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
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Courtney: In 10 Years time I hope to be an artistic director of a major theatre company so I can be at the helm of making decisions that push towards a more cohesive and evenly represented industry.
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I enjoyed watching this play because I feel it’s important to reflect diversity of our modern society on stage, so as a result -people feel that they belong.

Single Asian Female is currently showing at Belvoir St Theatre until March 25th, 2018.

18 & 25 Belvoir St Surry Hills
NSW 2010 Australia

Cast: Emily Burton
Lucy Heffernan

Patrick Jhanur
Alex Lee
Courtney Stewart
Hsiao-Ling Tang

By Michelle Law
Director Claire Christian
Set & Costume Designer Moe Assaad
Composer & Sound Designer Wil Hughes
Lighting Designer Keith Clark
Stage Manager Peter Sutherland
Assistant Stage Managers Katie Hurst & Keiren Smith

Photos courtesy of Belvoir & Michelle Law.