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

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The “Monkey” journey to the West – a stroke of Kim Carpenter’s creative genius

 

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I’ve been an avid theatre goer and actor for over twenty years and have been waiting for a play that not only embraces diversity but is action packed with family entertainment. This play fits the bill. You have to admire and respect Kim Carpenter’s creative genius, his vision – the outstanding set design, staging, acrobatics, puppetry and the use of animation and visuals on the screen as a backdrop, is brilliant.

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Kim Carpenter tells us in his program message:

Together with writer, Donna Abela, I dived into the pages of (the book) and our eyes widened at the amazing number of rich and extraordinary stories MONKEY had to offer. Inspired by the vivid beauty, mad-cap humour, mythology and exciting battles we found throughout the readings, we extracted the best stories into one, complete, fantastical action-packed stage adventure that will appeal to all – no matter what age or background.

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Monkey is played by Aljin Abella who appeared in US television series Power Rangers – Jungle Fury shows great performance athleticism. Aileen Huynh plays boy-monk Tripitaka (played by the late female actress Masako Natsume in the television series) has great stage presence and is strong and convincing. Darren Gilshenan is the over-eating buffoon Pigsy who has great comic timing and is an acting genius, while Sandy, a depressed water spirit, is played by Justin Smith.

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In the first act it focuses on the four essential characters and how they become a unit on a mission. The second act follows their adventures together and is most entertaining. One of my favourite scenes in the play is when Ivy Mak and Lia Reutens played the spangly black leotarded Spider Spirits which is hilarious and is choreographed to perfection – the crowd particularly laughed loudly in this scene. Another crowd pleasing scene was when Monkey asked the crowd “should I kill him?” The crowd yelled “yes!”

 

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A lot of thought went into this production and it has definitely an Aussie take. Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Theatre goers have something to look forward to in 2015. A must see! Well done to John Bell, Kim Carpenter and all the cast and crew.

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Film Racing 2014

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Yesterday at midday we started the 13th annual 24 Hours Film Racing Challenge. We were given –

A THEME: An ultimatum

AN ACTION: Biting into something

A PROP: A broom

 

We all gathered at Pearly Productions headquarters where we brainstormed for a good two hours on themes, plots and character ideas.

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Nick Triandafyllou had already booked a venue for us to shoot out of, which was a creepy, down trodden upstairs loft of an old barber’s shop. It was old and dusty with blood stains and bullet holes.

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Given that we had the main setting, plus we wanted to take advantage of the current outdoors Vivid display of light sculptures around Sydney’s Opera house, we brainstormed together and came up with three possible story scenarios to suit our two settings. One being a thriller, another being a drama and the third being a romantic comedy. After exhausting all three avenues, we agreed that with the time limit placed upon us, the romantic comedy was the best avenue to go down, plus we were satisfied with our romantic comedy’s ending which would raise social conscience about judgements we place on people in our society.

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Rory Kelly, Pearl Tan and Aileen Huynh

We had five actors on board – Emma Palmer, Aileen Huynh, Rory Kelly, Mansour Noor and myself (Joy Hopwood). Considering Aileen and Rory were the youngest out of the five of us, we agreed that they should be the young lovers and the rest of us be Rory’s homeless friends. The big question was, would his girlfriend accept us? Nick then went away and typed up a rough script for us to work with. Afterwards we headed to the loft for a run through and rehearsal blocking with director Pearl Tan.

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Emma Palmer

After rehearsing, blocking and then finally filming all ours scenes up until 1am, Mansour then started editing the footage. Pearl also booked a music composer to start work at 5am.

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Aileen Huynh, Rory Kelly and Pearl Tan.

“Basic planning is the key!” Nick said.

Nick had worked on film racing last year and said that that project failed because there was no basic structure and no time limits placed on each aspect of the filming process.

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Aileen Huynh, Mansoor Noor, Joy Hopwood, Emma Palmer

Once the music composer added music and the film was colour graded, Pearl loaded the film just in time on the http://www.filmracing.com website, with 42 minutes to spare. Great job to everyone involved. Fingers crossed that our film is selected and that the film’s message is well received!

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