Diversity Spotlight interview with filmmaker – Matthew Victor Pastor

matt 3

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.”
*
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.
*

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!

Mat 1

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).

matt 2

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.

matt 4

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.
Advertisements

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.

Andy 1 sml.jpg

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.

Andy 2 sml.jpg

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 😉

Andy 3.jpg

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.

Film Review – I, Tonya

 

I,_Tonya

I, Tonya is based on the true story of controversial 1990’s figure skater Tonya Harding played by Margot Robbie. This is a dark comedy with lots of mature content as Harding was seriously abused by both her mother, LaVona (Allison Janney) and boyfriend/husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). There are some heavy, dramatic, jaw dropping scenes where the audience screamed and squirmed with anguish as the scenes of abuse were depicted realistically, with intense emotional impact.

The movie presents a pretty bleak view of Tonya’s upbringing and the intense scrutiny she was under by the media and the public when she rose to compete at her highest level- the 1994 Winter Olympics, and the attack on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver).

Screen shot 2018-01-30 at 8.20.08 PM

The real-life Harding has given I, Tonya, her approval, as the film portrays her as a person shaped by abandonment, abuse and is empathetic to her fighting spirit, as she was often looked down upon, being a girl brought up by a single mother with very little money. All she wanted was to be loved as her life was often plagued with abuse, rejection and disappointment. Harding has said that in the film version she didn’t go up and confront the judges about her skating scores, she did that privately in real life, and that she doesn’t swear as much as the film portrayed her to be, that was obviously for dramatic effect.

The film was made with a $11 million budget, and Margot Robbie is impressive with her skating ability and her dedicated, heart felt, gutsy portrayal of Harding. Robbie even herniated a disc in her neck while skating and was so overwrought filming a violent scene with her on screen husband (Sebastian Stan) that she stormed off the set screaming. The film is enhanced with special effects in a few key places – the triple axels and adding more people in the audience.

Screen shot 2018-01-30 at 8.19.52 PM

Overall the film is impressive with Australian director Craig Gillespie at the helm as the whole cast is outstanding, performance-wise, and they all resemble the actual real-life people they portray. Snippets of them are showed at the end of the movie and during the closing credits. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney deserve to be nominated for the SAG and the Oscars – fingers crossed they’ll win. I rate this movie 8.5/10.

Photos courtesy of I, Tonya, the movie, LuckyChap Entertainment.

 

 

 

 

Film Review – The Greatest Showman

Screen shot 2018-01-13 at 4.23.33 PM

Hugh Jackman plays PT Barnum, the 19th-Century huckster and circus impresario. A slick musical with upbeat songs by La La Land’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, script written by Jenny Bicks & Bill Condon and directed by Michael Gracey. The Greatest Showman is a rags-to-riches fairytale, starting with a glimpse of his childhood as a poor tailor’s son in Connecticut and in the space of one song, Barnum has grown up, married his sweetheart, played by Michelle Williams, and settled into an office job.

His wife and two daughters are content with what they have and are too virtuous to care about money. Barnum dreams of making the world a more magical place and spreading joy, so he opens the American Museum in New York. First he fills it with waxworks and stuffed animals, and then, on the advice of his daughters, he rounds up a roster of “unique people”: a bearded lady (Keala Settle), a dog-faced boy, a tattooed man, giant man and various other hipsters who are given the opportunity to be proud of their unique attributes.

Screen shot 2018-01-13 at 4.24.50 PM

Ticket sales are soon soaring and he has to put up with snobs looking down at him, shouting their disapproval, calling it a freak show. What he desperately wants is to be accepted into high society and that’s when he employs a moneyed playwright, Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), to class up his act, but Carlyle gets tongues wagging when he holds hands with a black trapeze artiste (Zendaya). Barnum then arranges for a classical soprano, Jenny Lind, (Rebecca Ferguson) to tour America’s grandest concert halls. He risks everything and tours with Lind which takes him away from his family. Barnum soon gets carried away with success and himself as there are rumours that their relationship is more than professional. One night when celebrating with Lind, Barnum realises the importance of family and leaves her on her own. This causes great drama on tour and back at home where all hell breaks loose. Can he save himself, his family and his business?

Screen shot 2018-01-13 at 5.09.51 PM

My favourite lines in the film are “Every one of us is special” and “nobody is like anyone else.” It takes great nobleness to spread joy.

Its messages are all positive: don’t judge people by their backgrounds; follow your dreams; family and friendship are more important than money and success.

Hugh Jackman is outstanding and is supported by a wonderful ensemble cast. A great start to 2018 -“Feel good movie of the year!” Congratulations to the writers – Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon.

8.5/10

The Greatest Showman Trailer

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.

Interview with Australian martial artist & actor Maria Tran

maria-tran-1

Maria Tran is an Australian-Vietnamese. Her work includes short films such as “Enter The Dojo”, “Gaffa”, “Hit Girls” as well as Hollywood legend, Roger Corman’s upcoming mix martial arts movie playing killer assassin Zhen. Tran also starred as Yoshiko in the Chinese action film “Death Mist” in 2014 starring Bruce Leung (Kung Fu Hustle). In 2008 she acted in “Downtown Rumble” Kung Fu action micro-series on JTV-ABC TV and her short film “Gaffa”; another action comedy, won Hoyts People’s Choice Award for the Joy House Film Festival in 2013.

Maria Tran won a “Breakout Action Actress” award at the 2013 Action on Film International Festival for her portrayal of the character Charlie Vu in the female assassin comedy, “Hit Girls”. She also played supporting character “Mai Le” in Logie award-winning children’s ABC TV series “My Place”, stunt double for the character “Petal” in ABC’s TV series Maximum Choppage – Australia’s first Kung Fu comedy and acted in her first theatre production called “It’s War!” directed by Alex Lykos.

What made you want to do martial arts & acting as a career?

I recall growing up and being bullied quite often in school. I was called “Ching Chong” or “Gook” at times and the bullying became physical in an incident where I got slapped in the face, my hair pulled and I was shoved around a group of girls. The moment left me shocked, frustrated and confused why I was subjected to such treatment and it left me angry. My parents must of picked it up and suggested that I try martial arts to learn self defence to protect myself from those cases.

In 1998 I enrolled in Tae Kwon Do in a local school based in Cabramatta and become quite invested in it. Martial arts allowed me to let go of my external inhibitions, become stronger, with more focus and discipline. I performed my craft during school show and tells, spoke extensively about it, and I noticed that I carried myself differently; with a strong air of confidence and since that moment, no one ever confronted me again.

Acting came around in 2007 during a local project I produced called “Maximum Choppage”. It was an independent movie made by predominately Asian-Australians from Western Sydney. It was during this time that my acting bug was ignited and only several years later did I publicly embrace my passion in this, as prior I was unsure about my abilities and being Asian sometime means you have to make choices that also make your parents proud.

What were the challenges you found when you started?

I love martial arts but loathe begin boxed into this. After a string of martial arts short films and movies made in China and Vietnam, I was beginning to be labelled as the “kung fu girl” and nothing else. I was pigeon holed as a “stuntie” which I had no accreditation for, which in turned infuriated the stunt community as well. I wanted to be seen as an actor but didn’t have enough dramatic credits to show for as well as not formally trained. The challenges can be felt immensely when you are doing things the less conventional sense and going against the grain. I found that I had to gear myself psychological for the fight; the fight and rebuttal against all the subtle forms of racism that people often questioned if it was real or imagined.

Who were your role models growing and why?

My roles models stemmed from the martial arts action cinema of the 80s and 90s in Hong Kong. I grew up huddling around the TV during family gatherings to watch VHS tape of Jackie Chan’s latest flick or get excited seeing female fatale onscreen action queens such as Cynthia Khan, Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock. Film and television at that time was super white; a Country Practice, Neigbours and Home and Away with storytelling that just doesn’t gel with who I am. But Hong Kong cinema allowed me to think of the possibilities and the relief that Asian faces were heroes and heroines in their lives and adventure in other places in the world despite the dire lack in Australia.

Maria Tran and Jackie Chan.jpg

What has been your career highlight/ highlights?

My career highlight would have to be being invited to work with my long-term idol; Jackie Chan on the movie “Bleeding Steel” as it was shot in Sydney in mid 2016. Screen NSW gave me the call to take part as a stunt attachment and be around on set and learn the ropes. It was an insightful experience to see the difference between the Chinese way of filmmaking; which is fast pace and intuitive in comparison to the Australian way; which was much more structured and formal. Both had its pros and cons and seeing how cultural differences also affect how people relate to each other. Regardless, Jackie Chan is perhaps one of the most humbling person I’ve ever met. He takes on multi roles, works very hard, pushes himself and people and makes it a duty to look after everyone. It’s a reminder to me that if everyone took the time to implement what the value in human beings, the world would be a better place and things like “racism” just won’t exist.

What do you think about Colourblind casting in Australia? Are we getting better?

I think the Australian film industry have always been veered towards their Anglo-saxon audiences for decades, hence there’s always been an inequality between white and diverse actors. In addition, there are moments in the casting system that allows for ethnic roles to be taken away in favour for those who are privileged enough to enter prestige acting schools and can afford to focus on this craft for several years. From my experience, I’ve had several instances where I would see roles made for a particular culture casted to those from another ethnicity, quite possibly because “All Asians looks the same” mentality and if the majority of the Australian audiences can’t pick out the differences, then that’s fine. The truth stand that it is not, and I think there is a movement happening in Australia from the Asian demographics that with time, will lead to change.

What do you think about the diversity issue in Australian television / Film / Theatre?

It’s still an issue that affects all Asian actors as well as stories from this demographic. The issue is multifacet as well as still unexplored. I feel like sometimes when us Asians mention the word “diversity” we are perceived as attention seekers in the media eye. But this is what we want, and why is it such an issue when we raise our voices? Is it possibly because mainstream prefer to stereotype Asians as submissive, nerdy, quiet types? If this is so, I think we still need to continue the movement for change, inspire and activate more people in understanding the issues and find our own ways of representation.

Where do you see yourself in five years time? (What more do you want to achieve in your career?)

In the next 5 years I see myself internationally in China and Vietnam in both acting and filmmaking roles in their movie system. In 2015 I worked on Vietnamese blockbuster “Tracer” and this movie got released all over Vietnam as well as across Australian cinemas and it just shows that maybe to bring more diversity on Australian screens is to think laterally and work internationally. I still see Sydney, Australia as an anchor for my career and possibly delving in more TV series and movies roles as well. Of course there’s also the big smoke of Hollywood that I will venture off to; with broad imaginations that one-day I can also play a super hero of some sort.

the-tracer

Interview with Kalo Fainu from Pasifika Film Festival about diversity

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-6-55-14-pm
*
Q.1. Please tell us about Pasifika film festival’s aim?
*
Pasifika Film Fest exists for a few different reasons. First, it is a platform for storytellers of Pacific & Maori heritage to share their films on the big. Our aim is to give filmmakers the opportunity to have their films seen by large audiences and gain exposure to mainstream media and industry. Secondly, it is about representation, or in fact, filling a gap where there has been a lack of representation of Pacific people in mainstream film and television. Lastly, it is a place for the community to take part in the wonderfully diverse cultures of Oceania. Where once stories were passed down by elders, PFF fits into perfectly into contemporary times by harnessing film as a means of sharing Pacific stories and creating a link to our island homes and cultures
*
Screen shot 2016-09-29 at 6.54.37 PM.png
*
Q.2. Why did you start your festival?
*
The festival began out of my own desire to have access to Pacific films. Through my studies in Media Arts and Production at UTS I embarked on a hunt for stories that I could relate to and that taught me something about my cultural heritage. The content was either difficult to find or unavailable in Australia and in fact there was no other film festival in the world (that I could find) that specifically celebrated the stories of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia in one place and on a large scale.
*
Q.3. Do you think there’s enough diversity in film festivals across the board in Australia?
*

I think the lack of diversity is exemplified more so across the mainstream film and television platforms. I actually think the range of diversity in film festivals in Australia is pretty good, which is why we need to exist. What film festivals do is support the smaller films, the unknown titles and the emerging filmmaker or actor. Festivals give screen time to the films that mainstream cinemas & prime time television usually don’t.

*

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-6-57-52-pm

*
Q.4. What excites you about your programme this year?
*

So many things! I think what I get really excited about when I’m programming is the little extra’s PFF brings to a screening. PFF is very big on bringing more the just a film to the big screen, but delivering a unique experience to cinema lovers. From Q&A’s with filmmakers, to cultural performances and food samples inspired by Pacific cuisine, we really love to immerse the audience in the tastes, sounds, smells, people and cultures of Australia’s closest neighbours.

*

Q.5. What’s one of your favourite films of all time (in your festival) and why?
*
One of my favourites from last year was a film called KUMU HINA, a powerful film about the struggle to maintain Pacific Islander culture and values within the Westernized society of modern day Hawaiʻi. It is told through the lens of an extraordinary Native Hawaiian who is both a proud and confident māhū, or transgender woman, and an honored and respected kumu, or teacher.
*
Screen shot 2016-09-29 at 6.59.34 PM.png
*
Q.6. When filmmakers are submitting their films, what do you look for and why?
*

Films are selected for various reasons, is it engaging? Is it entertaining? Does it highlight an important issue that concerns Pacific communities? However the core of any film we screen is that it should have a good storyline. I’m less concerned about perfect cinematography (although it is always appreciated) and more focused on the story and the message and what the audience will take away from this screening.

*

7. What direction would you like to see your festival go in the future?
*

I think the natural direction of Pasifika Film Fest is that it will become a travelling film festival. Like our voyaging ancestors, I imagine that PFF will travel across Oceania, collecting and sharing stories audiences across the Pacific region and maybe even beyond. It has already started to materialise, with the upcoming installment of PFF heading to Brisbane in the week after Sydney and an international announcement about to be made very soon.

WWW.PASIFIKAFILMFEST.COM

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-7-01-52-pm