Interview with Stacey Copas about her latest film and diversity.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Interview with Aileen Huynh from the latest Tim Ferguson’s movie Spin Out

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Q.1. Congratulations on your film “Spin Out” what character do you play and what kind of character is she? Was it written for a person from a non specific ethnic background or not?

I play the role of ‘Merline’, a fitness freak who runs work-out classes including Boxercise, Yogasize and Jazzasize, all self-titled, of course. She is really switched on to social media, fashion and her boyfriend Rooter 😉 The role was specifically written for a Chinese-Australian woman, which is great, as it immediately creates an opportunity for an actor from a diverse background and a representation on screen. My cultural background is never referred to either, which is a welcomed change, as I feel there is often an attempt to justify why an actor from a diverse background has been cast. I do believe that overcoming the lack of diversity on our screens does begin in the writing room. If it hadn’t been specified in the script then I really don’t think I would have ever been seen for this role.

Q.2. What was the casting process like for this film (please expand – e.g. self test, then audition, I had to fly to Melbourne etc and read opposite…)

It started off with a self test which I shot at home with the help of a friend, and after that, one call-back audition with the casting director and the directors of the film. As the troupe were flying in from Melbourne for call-backs, there was really only one opportunity to see them.

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Q.3. What was your most memorable moment on the “Spin Out” set?

There is a massive mud fight scene in the film and the night of that shoot the crew had set up this ‘incubator’ tent with hay and heating fans to keep us warm as the temperature would drop rapidly as soon as evening hit. I just remember looking around at everyone huddled inside, wrapped in blankets, in-amongst the hay, covered in mud and completely unrecognisable and it all seemed very strange and surreal.

Q.4. Is this your breakthrough role? (If so why? If not what was it?)

I really don’t think I’ve ‘broken through’ anything! I’m still plodding along, trying to learn more and work out how to actively contribute to the arts world in a way that feels right. It’s all still a big learning curve.

Q.4. What actors/ actresses do you look up & admire to in the industry (Oz or US etc) and why?

I am really impressed by Rose Byrne and the trajectory of her career. She is a very talented actor who has managed to work continuously across, what seems to be a myriad of roles and genres in prolific projects, yet also manages to fly under the radar in amongst all that Hollywood drama. Every actors dream career! However looking at things from a different perspective I really admire creator Freddie Wong, who is now part of his self-created company, Rocket Jump. He started off with a bloke called Brandon making online videos predominately about gaming, which they wrote, directed and edited all themselves. It’s mind-blowingly good. Fast forward till now and Freddie has his content on Netflix, a TV show on his film-making (currently showing on SBS) and millions and millions of hits on YouTube- and that was all self-generated! There are heaps of others like him too, creating their own stuff and finding their own audiences. It’s so warming to know that the art of creating in its true form does exist and that it doesn’t always have to do with money, a look, and luck.

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Q.5. Do you see a change in the industry since when you first started? If so what is it and why?

In terms of diversity, I would say that since I started in the industry, the heat around this topic has drastically risen on a worldwide scale. It seems we are at the stage where we are seeing a large culmination of voices from those who come from diverse backgrounds themselves or have grown up in our ever-increasing multicultural society that are saying there is a problem with the way society is represented. Has this conversation changed anything? Yes, I think it’s starting to! We’re not talking a complete fix, far from it and we still very much lag behind countries such as the US and UK on this issue, who are themselves, still working through it, but we are at the start of exciting times in seeing some kind of proactive change. I see companies and creative directors talking about it with seriousness and acknowledgment. There are signs of opportunities being made for diversity in places I have never seen before and new funding from bodies that are open to aiding change. Thank the lord! It’s about time.

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Q.6. What do you think about Colourblind casting and do you think it’s important here in Australia?

I think the concept of Colour-blind casting is so important in our industry worldwide as a way of lowering segregation, tokenism and creating a sense of inclusiveness. Of course there is a place for specific racial casting when we tell stories that have strong connections with specific cultures and it should be done with sensitivity to reflect those stories honestly. Particular relationships may not make sense if ethnicity and background aren’t taken into account, such as family relationships etc. It’s just a fact that there are some casting choices where race will automatically be a factor. However smart Colour-blind casting can easily happen. If there is a role that isn’t race specific then there should be more thought and opportunities given to showcase diversity. It’s actually absurd that it happens so rarely, given the current social climate, where our most populated areas are densely multicultural.

Q.7. What changes would you like to see in the Film /TV/ Stage industries

I would love to see more people from diverse backgrounds employed on projects on the production side- writers, directors, producers. Change needs to start from the inside before it can make its way out. Having more diversity brings a range of different experiences and knowledge and I think this is also part of the answer in making the content our industry creates bolder, enriching and more engaging.

Photos courtesy of Aileen Huynh / Sony Pictures

Creative Halloween Ideas for Kids

Halloween is coming up on October 31st, 2016. Here are some fun craft and foodie ideas for children with The Wong Side of Life!

 HALLOWEEN CRAFT IDEAS

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Halloween hand masks

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Paper pumpkin (lantern style)

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Feet print ghosts.

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Hand X-ray using cotton buds & white paint

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Pumpkin style lanterns

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Cotton bud skeleton

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Spider web using pop sticks and wool (black or white)

HALLOWEEN FOODIE TREATS

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IMAGE: @AWEBB8 ON INSTAGRAM

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IMAGE: @SOUTHPAWSTUDIOS ON INSTAGRAM

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IMAGE: MEAGHAN MOUNTFORD THE DECORATED COOKIE

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IMAGE: @FIVEHEARTHOME ON INSTAGRAM

 

 

Creative foodie treat ideas

We’ve been doing many creative workshops for children over the last few years.

Here are our most popular foodie treat ideas.

 

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Banana sushi – a sliced banana rolled in peanut butter and rice puffs (or rice bubbles).

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Milky Way cars with smarties as wheels and Tiny Teddies as drivers.

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Lady birds on crackers made from cherry tomatoes, olives and Fetta cheese, on top of Cheddar cheese and water crackers.

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Crocodile made from half an avocado, carrot teeth, cucumber and olive eyes.

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The omelette wrap – filled with smoked salmon, mayonnaise, roast pumpkin and basil.

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Rice puffs / bubbles chocolate slice – 1 mars bar melted & 3/4 cup of rice puffs/bubbles pressed into a tray with melted chocolate on the top.

 

 

Being in a Creative Relationship – How to make it work (Pillow Talk #SpectrumNow Review)

Six well-known creative couples talked openly about their relationships at Spectrum Now’s March festival 2016. They included: David Williamson, Australia’s most successful playwright and his author wife, Kristin, all round entertainer David Campbell and his producer wife Lisa, actor Rob Carlton who played Kerry Packer in the ABC’s Paper Giants series and his wife, writer Adrienne Ferreira, all talked openly about their relationships. They discussed the tough times, how they made it through and what they did to make their creative lives work.

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Photo courtesy of ABC

It was love at first sight for David Williamson when he first met his now wife Kristin, though they were both married to other people at the time, he distinctively remembers what she wore which made him fall head over heals in love with her. Kristin remembers his great charisma and the way he was passionate when talking about his work. They met on his first production of The Removalists. She remembers when doing a play read for him, he was actively gesturing, gregarious and witty which appealed to her. He admitted that he once cast himself in one of his earlier plays, and burst out laughing just before a funny line was delivered. He hasn’t returned to acting since!

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It was a few years later that the two split with their partners at the time, and there was a lot of hurt and pain before coming together as a couple. The Williamson’s greatest challenge came out of their open marriage in the 1970s which led to Kristin writing a list of people she could “bear to be with” as David was doing it, why couldn’t she? It wasn’t until she admitted that she was falling for a man on her list that David changed, cleaned up his act and really started listening to her. He said, “It wasn’t until I felt that I was losing her, I realised I could no longer do this.” David confessed that the whole open marriage thing doesn’t work because “sexual jealousy is deeply rooted in our inner most nature and you can’t emotionally deconstruct it.” It comes with the human psyche. Since that breakdown in their marriage he realised what a treasure he has and together they’ve worked through their relationship battles and Kristin found her own identity and career in journalism, and became known independently. She said what they went through has made their relationship stronger. Together they work as a team. She often reads through David’s drafts and has learned to be careful when putting forth criticisms because in the past he was very sensitive and often over reacted to her suggestions. David said like most writers, he draws on his own personal experiences and writes about them, giving characters different names and alters situations to make them more dramatic. Kristin often discovers when watching his plays on stage pieces of familiar dialogue and says, “That’s what I said to you last night!”

He says what he loves about Kristin is that he’s still attracted to her; he still sees her younger self and loves her inner soul and honesty. Kristin said what she loves best about David is his sense of humour and that he always makes her laugh, his intellect and curiosity in life. That’s what makes their relationship work.

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Photo courtesy of On Broadway album cover

The next creative couple was David and Lisa Campbell. David confessed that it was during The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee  musical when this British woman from the cast of An Inspector Calls came backstage. Back in his drinking days, they had a theatre tradition called Thirsty Thursdays and Magda Szubanski, who was also in the Spelling Bee, invited the Inspector Calls company over for drinks. They were all fangirling over Magda because they loved Kath & Kim and it was her who set him up with Lisa.

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The two hit it off instantly and got together just after three weeks of dating and became engaged in Paris. In 2008 they married and set up their own creative production company Luckiest Productions where they produced all of David’s national tours, as well as other productions. It was only once during David’s 80’s tour that they struggled financially. They admit that they had counselling and joked that it was Lisa who had the counsellor first, then David joined her sessions and ended up taking her counsellor. Discussing things openly and accepting the creative chaos in their lives helps them through their relationship challenges. After David’s 80’s tour he soon landed a regular gig at Channel Nine, co-hosting with Sonia Kruger. Lisa then started producing successful musicals and is currently producing Little Shop of Horrors at Hayes Theatre and reveals what she loves about David is his singing. “When he gets up on stage and starts singing, I fall in love with him all over again because he’s just so talented,” Lisa says. She also admits that he helps her connect with people for her productions. For example she was looking for a voice of authority, with a God-like tone, and Geoffrey Rush was going to do it but then had to pull out so Lee Lin Chin was suggested and David said he could get hold of her because he has a contact at SBS. David says what he loves about Lisa is how she’s a leader, “she’s the boss!”

“What I don’t like about David is his indecisiveness,” Lisa jokes.

David agrees, “Yes, even when I’m ordering, I always ask what the specials are but never order them. I’m just curious and want to know, but I’ll still order the same thing. What I love about Lisa is how she nurtures the next pool of talent coming through and she’s her own institution.”

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 photo courtesy of Saxton.com.au

The last couple was actor Rob Carlton who played Kerry Packer in the ABC’s Paper Giants series and his wife, writer Adrienne Ferreira.

“On our first date Rob wanted to kiss me before dinner! I said no and had to pull the reins in!” says Adrienne.

Rob said they had previously met five years before at university and he wasn’t someone Adrienne was interested in at the time because he was a night owl and loved drinking and smoking. It was five years later when they met again and Rob pursued her. They eventually got together and had two boys and his career grew. He raised money, produced his own TV series and had his own production company, and was on a creative high. It was during this high moment in life that he came home from work one night and made dinner for his family and Adrienne started crying at the dinner table. She said,”I’m not kind enough to you,” (pause). Rob gets up from his seat on stage and tells the audience, “Oh, isn’t that sweet, but wait, then she went on to say, ‘because I don’t like you anymore!” Those words came out of nowhere and shocked him to the core and made him think- OK at least she didn’t bring it up during an argument. She was honest and brave enough to say these words calmly to him and reveal how she’s truly feeling. He then made a list of character flaws of himself and said he’d work on them. During this time Adrienne let out her frustrations by writing a screenplay which was devastating for Rob to read, as the protagonist was a mother who used to get up to mischief on weekends.  She even asked him to direct it. There were so many issues in the play that he uncovered – the comic irony of what the mother in the story was getting up to on weekends was mind boggling for him to read and comprehend. He then thought, OK this is how my wife’s feeling. Rob then announced to her, “You’re responsible for your own happiness, I can’t make you happy. Only you can make yourself happy.”

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From that point onwards they came to an understanding that relationships change and we all evolve, it will never stand still and stay the same. She admitted she was feeling down because she didn’t have her own identity as she was part of his limelight. After writing her screenplay, Adrienne wrote novels and got published. She’s now a successful writer and has her own identity and success.

I’d like to thank them all for sharing their honest stories with everyone so we can learn from their experiences. This was one of my favourite yearly #SpectrumNow events- hearing nothing but honest stories from creatives.

Fabulously Creative with Walter Mason

Walter Mason did a wonderful Fabulously Creative workshop for writers this week at Ashfield library.

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Walter’s first book, Destination Saigon was published at the age of 40 and says, “Anything fabulous can happen at any age in your life!”

He started the workshop with us closing our eyes and we had to think about our intentions for the workshop, “What I want to do is…” and then after a minute or so Walter rang a beautiful sounding bell, reminiscent to the bells you hear at temples. The beautiful sound echoed through the room, I felt like I was being transported into a Buddhist monk retreat.

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He shared with us “fabulous people” who inspired him as a writer. They include:

  • Rabelais (1483-1553) who came to Walter in a dream and was a writer, monk and Greek scholar. He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, master of crude jokes and songs. He was a monk who often wrote about getting drunk and many other salacious stories. The lesson he learned from him – “Write warmly and take delight in everyday life.” A wonderful Rabelais quote was, “Wisdom can’t enter an unkind heart.” I really love this quote.
  • Ouida (1839-1908) was the pseudonym of the English novelist Maria Louise Ramé. She lived at Langham hotel in London and ran up huge hotel and florist’s bills, and commanded soirees that included soldiers, politicians, literary lights (including Oscar Wilde, Algernon Swinburne, Robert Browning and Wilkie Collins), and artists (including John Millais), “A little scandal is an excellent thing; nobody is ever brighter or happier of tongue than when he is making mischief.” The lesson learned – “Go to the places that inspire you.”
  • Baron Corvo (Frederick Rolfe) (1860-1913) was an English writer, artist, photographer and eccentric. He often carried eccentric and peculiar notebooks and pens and often had a story to tell for everything he had. Lesson: Write extravagantly and with style, and always keep eccentric notebooks.
  • E.F. Benson (1867-1940) An English novelist, biographer, memoirist and represented England at figure skating. He was a precocious and prolific writer, publishing his first book while still a student. Principally known for the Mapp and Lucia series about Emmeline “Lucia” Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp. Lesson: “Observe the world minutely and always look for stories in people and the places you encounter each day.
  • Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) was a British poet and critic and the eldest of the three literary Sitwells. She often spent one day of the week in bed! She had an ostentatious style due to her costumes and was an outrageous person, born with a twisted spine. Lesson: “Be noteworthy.”
  • Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) was an English poet, novelist and garden designer. Lesson: “Cherish every moment in life and write about it. There is never a perfect time-all stages of life are worth celebrating.”
  • Elinor Glyn (1864-1945) was a British novelist and scriptwriter who specialised in romantic fiction, which was considered scandalous during her time. Lesson: “Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze.”

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We then did some fabulous writing activities. They include the following:

  • 50 words – CREATIVE BLURB ABOUT YOU

Walter asked us to write a 50 words blurb about ourselves within 5 minutes. There was however one other small restriction placed onto us, and that was that we had to include one special word – one that was pulled out from his blue bag filled with typed words. My special word was, DROP!

So I wrote – Joy Hopwood’s a creative who works in the arts and entertainment industry. She founded the Joy House Film Festival and does creative kids workshops in schools as part of her “Kindness is for Free” workshops, an anti-bullying and racism initiative, with her DROP dead gorgeous Wong Side of Life puppets.

We all read out our blurbs and some other people had to include words such as “damage,” “bang,” “bake,” “pumpkin,” “chase” and so on.

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  • RECALLING YOUR WRITER MOMENT

We then had to write down a time in our lives that made us think we were writers.

I recalled a time in year 7, at school, when our class had to write down procedures of looking after our pets. I wrote about my pet goldfish and at the end of my story I wrote, “This is how I look after my goldfish, even though he died last week!” After reading it out loud, the classroom erupted into laughter and my teacher said, “I always enjoy reading your work Joy, because of the honesty and humour you put in your stories. Your stories often put a smile on my face.” This was the first moment in my life that I thought I could be a writer.

  • WRITE DOWN YOUR FEARS

Walter made us all address our fears and told us of an incident when one writing teacher told her class to get their names printed on business cards with one word job description underneath – “WRITER.” This affirmation made the class think differently about themselves. One of my favourite activities was when we all had to draw a vertical line in the centre of our pages and write down our fears on the left side and then a positive counteraction on the other side. For example on one side of the page I wrote, “My writing is untidy,” and on the right side of the column I wrote, “My writing is neat,” and so on. After everyone wrote down their lists of fears we were then instructed to tear off and throw away our fears and have our positive affirmations displayed near our computers or writing place. Walter stressed that it does matter how we talk to ourselves and that he once completed a 12-step programme of, “Fake it until you make it!”

  • FLASH FICTION

Writing and telling a story in 300 words is called flash fiction. By starting the story off with the action makes the story immediate and dynamic. Many flash fiction stories omit the set up of the story, and just went straight to the action.

For example, “My bird flew out of hands and dived into a world of the unknown…” or “He walked out on me after I confessed…” and so on.

  • PROMPT BOX

Walter told us about Twyla Tharp’s prompt box. Tharp is a dancer and choreographer who’s produced over 130 dances and ballets over the last 40 years. She believes that creativity can be learned and implemented for the world to savour and enjoy and often uses the “prompt box” technique. Twyla Tharp explains her filing organisation/ creativity project started system: “I start every dance with a box. I write the project name on the box, and as the piece progresses I fill it up with every item that went into the making of the dance. This means notebooks, news clippings, CDs, videotapes of me working alone in my studio, videos of the dancers rehearsing, books and photographs and pieces of art that may have inspired me. he box makes me feel organized, that I have my act together even when I don’t know where I’m going yet. It also represents a commitment. The simple act of writing a project name on the box means I’ve started work.”

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  • CREATIVE SHOPPING BAGS

Walter also told us about his creative teacher, Jan Cornall who has “creative shopping bags.” Each bag holds items that inspire the writing process. Walter said that his teacher has one bag titled – My memoir, another – My creativity and so on. This is another wonderful creative idea for story and writing stimulation.

Like myself, Walter has journals. He says journal writing stimulates a part of our brain into action. By writing one page a day, in bullet points is a great start; you can use it for articles or for writing a book. To conclude the workshop we wrote down our future dazzling successes, in five years time.

I asked Walter what gives him joy in his life and he replied, “It gives me joy doing the thing I want to do. It gives me joy helping other people, realising and reaching their dreams. I get really excited when I see other people doing something they want to do and if I can help them in any way it really thrills me. It gives me joy being with people I love and it gives me joy to be loved in return. It gives me joy that I have done something that makes someone happy.”

Destination Saigon   Destination Cambodia

Walter has two books published, Destination Saigon and Destination Cambodia, I strongly recommend them. He writes with great passion and humour. He has a few talks and workshops coming up. Here’s the link http://www.waltermason.com

Enjoy!

My Melbourne Trip (AAFFN)

On Saturday 28th November 2015, I flew to Melbourne to be part of AAFFN’s panel and spoke about diversity in the arts and curation of content for the Joy House Film Festival. The event started by showcasing a selection of films that were chosen from Singapore Festival, Persian Film Festival and The Joy House Film Festival. The event was chaired by Amadeo Marquez Perez. The other guest panelists included: Sukhmani Khorana, Kevin Bathman (Carnival of the Bold) and Sanaz Fotouhi (Persian Film Festival).

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Photo by Mayu Kanamori

We all spoke about the importance of showcasing content that is relevant and reflective of the society in which we live in today. Kevin Bathman spoke on how Carnival of the Bold focuses on emerging talent and Sanaz Fotouhi spoke on how they sometimes bring in big name artists, because they bring in an audience for the Persian Film Festival. Sukhmani Khorana spoke about the importance of being true to your audience and showing integrity on choice of content. I spoke about the importance of “story” when curating short films of joy and diversity, despite having “famous” filmmakers submitting to the Joy House Film Festival, I always go with the filmmaker who told their story well.

Afterwards we had a wonderful Q & A session followed by lunch. It was great to socialise with other people with the same passion for story telling and films as myself. Thank you to AAFFN for putting on such a successful event.

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Even though my trip to Melbourne was short, I throughly enjoyed seeing the popular tourist sites.

I hopped on a tram which took me around Melbourne City.

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I went to the Queen Victoria Markets and enjoyed all the foodie treats.

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The Melbourne State library

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The Wheeler Centre (they just so happened to have an event chaired by Benjamin Law – Is Australia Racist?)

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Melbourne City

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