Diversity Spotlight – Interview with actor Max Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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JOY: How did you get started in your career?

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

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

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

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JOY: Who inspires you in the industry?

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

JOY: What are you working on now?

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

JOY: What is your dream role & why?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Casting Game (feature film) by Joy Hopwood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Stacey Copas about her latest film and diversity.

 

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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.

Interview with Australian actor Belinda Jombwe about her new role

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Interview with Australian martial artist & actor Maria Tran

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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.

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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.

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Interview with Aussie actor & Bollywood star Nicholas Brown

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Nicholas Brown is an Australian actor, singer, songwriter, and screenwriter. He grew up in the Western Sydney suburb of Greysteins. Nicholas attended Newtown High School of the Performing Arts in years 11 and 12 as an auditioned drama student and is an acting graduate from Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art.

Qu.1. What made you want to be in the acting industry?

Music was the catalyst without a doubt. I was a child singer and did a lot of musicals when I was young. I sang in a professional boys choir and got a taste for showbiz through that. We did lots of gigs around Sydney and recorded albums with several singers. Through song lyrics I became interested in acting. I always loved drama classes when I was young but the entry point was definitely through musicals. My dad hired a video camera back in the eighties to film one of my school musicals  and we were able to have it in the house for a few days after. At seven, I had planned a film shoot with the kids up the road and I was going to use the hired video camera to direct and act in it. That’s when I first became interested in film making.
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Qu.2. Where are you based now and what are you working on?
I’m based in Sydney after a good nine years going back and forth between Mumbai and Los Angeles. Right now I’m in rehearsals for my self penned play Lighten Up for Griffin Independant. I’ve just finished shooting a feature in Arnhem Land called Myth which is an art house road trip film engaging with the Indigenous community in remote Northern Territory. This year I’ve also shot two Indian feature films. One Bollywood horror film called Prattichhaya  and the other a spy thriller called Sedition. Both will be released next year. I’m feeling very grateful as it’s been a good year.
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Qu.3. What is your favourite role in your career & why?
Sedition is the film that I just shot in the Himalayas. The character’s name is Shiva. It was by far the most challenging role I’ve played. In Australian film and TV I’m often a supporting role so it was refreshing to play a lead. It was extremely psychologically and physically challenging so in that sense it was my favourite. The experience was rather harrowing but in hindsight I think it’s my favourite role so far for those reasons. Other favourite roles would have to be Jesus in the Indian Jesus Christ Superstar, Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and The Beast, Tony in the Bollywood film Kites and Sachin in Network Ten’s The Cooks.
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Qu.4. Who were your role models growing up and why?
In Australia there were no diverse actors on TV. My role models were all Caucasian actors. I didn’t actually realise I was ‘ethnic’ until I was older. A lot of my identity issues would have been dealt with in an easier way if I’d grown up looking up to other non Caucasian actors. If only I grew up watching Bollywood. That all came later.  In my early twenties Ben Kingsley became a huge role model. I remember feeling very inspired by Jay L’aagalia on Water Rats and by Deborah Mailman on Secret Life Of Us.
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Qu.5
 What do you think about colourblind casting in Australia? Do you think we’re doing enough?
We’ve been lagging behind for years. It’s something that has left me exhausted, frustrated but still hopeful. It’s a hot topic now and I’ve been vocal about it for sixteen years. I just get on with things these days. I’ve been slowly chipping away, creating my own work when doors were closed. Moving to India was one of the best decisions I’d ever made. If Australia didn’t have place for a brown actor then I would go somewhere that did. Things definitely are getting better and that makes me very happy. I’m all for quotas. I know it’s a controversial subject and that people argue that the best person for the job should get the job but in an industry saturated by Caucasians actors – all of those people seen as the best are white and have reached that point because of the way the industry once was. To create a diverse industry in the future I think we need quotas to get new diverse actors (who’ve been devoid of opportunity) trained and experienced so they can be the ‘best.’ Let’s reach a state of equality, then scrap the quotas, then the best person for the job can get the job.
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Nicholas Brown will be starring in Lighten Up which will be performed at Griffin Theatre. A play produced by Bali Padda and written by Nicholas Brown and Sam McCool.
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Crowd funding Pozible campaign for Lighten Up https://pozible.com/project/lighten-up
Crowd funding ends 4th November 2016.
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Director & Dramaturge

Shane Anthony

Cast

Katie Beckett, Nicholas Brown, Vivienne Garrett, Julie Goss, Sam McCool, Bishanyia Vincent

Producer Bali Padda | Stage Manager Lauren Tulloh

Set & Costume Design Tobhiyah Stone Feller | Lighting Design Christopher Page

Sound Design & Composer | Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers

Written by Australia’s own Bollywood leading man, Nicholas Brown and stand-up comedy star, Sam McCool, Lighten Up is a cross-cultural romantic comedy about racism and triumphantly owning your identity… and bleaching your bits!

Lighten Up is a laugh-out-loud comedy that follows John Green, an Indian-Australian man living in Western Sydney. John, an actor, dreams of being cast in his favourite soap, ‘Bondi Parade’ where blonde-haired, blue-eyed people abound. The problem for John? His skin is more brown than white, his eyes more brown than blue, his hair more brown than blonde – in fact, he’s just entirely too brown. Meanwhile John’s overbearing, skin-bleaching mother Bronwyn has high hopes for him to procreate with a white Australian woman and so cleanse the family of any further ‘ethnicity’ in their bloodline. However, Bronwyn’s dreams are shattered when John falls in love with a beautiful Indigenous woman named Sandy. Despite everything and everyone in his way, John is determined to be recognised as ‘true blue’… or whatever colour it is that Australians are supposed to be!

In Sydney, there is a large amount of ‘white’ theatre and a welcomed rise in Indigenous theatre, however the mainstream theatre landscape seems somewhat devoid of the cultural melting pot – the in-between of mixed races and cultures that typifies the backgrounds of many Australians. With so many of us from mixed and migrant backgrounds, it is from these communities that many of our stories will spring. Lighten Up is the first play by an Indian-Australian creator about the Indian-Australian community staged at a professional theatre company in Sydney.

For creator Nicholas Brown, an Indian-Australian NIDA-trained actor who has gone on to great success in Bollywood, starring in numerous films including the blockbuster Kites opposite Hrithik Roshan and smash-hit Love You To Death, the idea for Lighten Up first came 11 years ago. Initially a film script, Lighten Up was a reaction to Brown’s own experiences as a mixed-race actor in the casting arena in Australia. Of this time Brown says:

“After graduating from NIDA in 2000 it became very clear to me that I was treated very differently because of my skin colour and cultural background. At that time there was so much systemic racism in the entertainment industry. Writing about it was therapeutic. I also wanted to write a story about being stuck in between two different cultures, about being mixed race and the complications that go with that.”

Brown finally embraced his heritage and moved to India where his career soared, but he also took note of the fact that race and appearance in India seemed equally as skewed as it was in Australia – the most popular cosmetic product in India being a skin-lightening lotion. Brown recognised that there was a cross-cultural story in all this hypocrisy of human nature and so turned his attentions back to his script for Lighten Up. Brown contacted comedian Sam McCool after seeing some of his hilarious and even-handed material that focussed on race. McCool jumped at the chance to work with Brown on a new theatrical version of Lighten Up. The new script was put into development with Sydney Theatre Company for their Rough Drafts program in 2015 and caught the eye of Bali Padda, actor, producer and Co-Chair of the Equity Diversity Committee who decided that he wanted to produce the show for Griffin Independent 2016.

Lighten Up is a very clever and very funny show that tackles some very touchy subjects and treats them with both dignity and humour to highlight the multicultural, ‘real’ Australia that we see out on the streets and in our neighbourhoods. Lighten Up is a play that shines a light on human prejudices, understanding of cultural identity and what we can all learn from one another if we could all just lighten up a bit!

LIGHTEN UP

SBW Stables Theatre 10 Nimrod St, Kings Cross

Season:                         30th November – 17th December 2016

Previews:                        7pm Wednesday 30th November, Thursday 1st December

Opening Night:                        7pm Friday 2nd December

Performances:                        7pm Monday – Saturday. Matinees: Saturday 17th December 2pm

Tickets:                                    $38 Full | $30 Concession, Seniors, Groups 8+, Previews, Under 35s. | $20 Monday Rush Booking fees apply

Ages:                                    15 years +

Bookings:                         www.griffintheatre.com.au or 02 9361 3817

Photos courtesy of Nicholas Brown and Griffin Theatre.

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