Me and My Left Brain Film Review

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What happens when you’re in love with someone and you don’t know how they feel about you, plus you have an audition in the morning and can’t sleep? This is exactly what happens to Arthur (Alex Lykos) in “Me and My Left Brain.”

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“Me and My Left Brain,” is Alex’s second feature film making his debut as a director. Malcolm Kennard plays Left Brain who Arthur airs out his insecurities to and Rachel Beck plays his best friend, Vivien. The three main characters play off each other well. Left Brain is intense with nice glimpses of bro-ish camaraderie between him and Arthur, which is appealing to watch. Alex plays Arthur who is down to earth and relatable; anyone who’s experienced insomnia and anxiety will see themselves in this character, like I have. There are wonderful similarities to Woody Allen in performance and style with Alex’s own intertwined into this feature, which is captivating and delightful to watch. Rachel Beck’s directed performance is outstanding. Many female audience members remarked afterwards how natural and effortless her performance was and how they loved her likeable yet fun loving character. There are many hilarious moments for audiences to enjoy!

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The screenplay is an original work written by Alex whose other credits include Alex and Eve (feature) and stage shows Better ManThe Negotiating Table, It’s War and the original musical Australia’s Game. Me & My Left Brain is an adaptation of the successful stage play A Long Night that celebrated two sold out seasons in Sydney and won several awards at the 2013 Sydney Comedy Festival.

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Alex has another feature and series in the works and is a writer / director/ producer of this generation and one to watch. Everyone should support such great talent, who is generous & gives a lot to the industry like he has.

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Me and My Left Brain is currently showing at Rtiz Randwick and selected Event cinemas.

7.5/10

The making of Me and My Left Brain

 

Me and my Left Brain with Alex Lykos

 

 

 

Diversity Spotlight: Interview with Sam Wang, starring in Skyduck (Belvoir St Theatre)

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Sam Wang studied film and law at UTS before training as an actor at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School. His previous credits include The Chairs, The Mooncake & The Kumara and Hope & Wire. In 2019, he will be appearing in Runaway Millionaires, The Script of Life and Skyduck: A Chinese Spy Comedy as part of Belvoir’s 25A program.

  1. What made you want to be an actor?

S.W: By accident! When applying for uni, I picked a film and law degree as a joke for my third choice – thinking it’ll never come to that – and then ended up in it. Had no idea how to find actors for our first-year film projects so just acted in them and was hooked.

I then convinced my parents that taking acting classes would help my law career…it didn’t!

  1. Who were your role models growing up? 

S.W: Michael Jordan, Jackie Chan, Jim Carrey and Rowan Atkinson.

Also, can I say The Mighty Ducks and the Jamaican bobsled team in Cool Runnings? There was an Asian kid in The Mighty Ducks who was an ex-figure skater turned ice hockey player. As an adult, you’re like ‘well, that’s very different skillsets,’ but when you’re a kid, it’s like “he can do that jumpy-spinny thing! Of course he plays ice hockey!”

I think that’s why I ended up in the arts. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about playing with MOFO style! (Disclaimer: in a way that wouldn’t work in any other real-life situation)

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  1. What made you want to write your play & what was your inspiration?

S.W: Since reading the book See No Evil by Robert Baer which was loosely adapted into the film Syriana, I’ve become fascinated with the role and influence of intelligence agencies on domestic and international politics (and vice-versa). So I really wanted to write something on that subject but since I’m not a real spy – promise – and couldn’t ‘openly’ plagiarise someone else’s memoir, a historically accurate drama wasn’t really viable. So I went with the next best option – a historical parody where truth was optional…like contemporary politics!

  1. Can you explain a bit of the process of how you got your play at Belvoir?

S.W: We pitched Skyduck for 25A in the first year and didn’t get in. I was ready to scrap the idea but at their launch party, I met Christine, one of the festival directors at Crack X, who convinced me to pitch to their festival in Newcastle. We did, got in, and that forced us to actually make the show! It had a great run, we got some great footage and then, with a very convincing letter from Pierce, the other festival director, we were able to submit a much more competitive pitch to Belvoir this second time round and were lucky enough to get in.

  1. What is your dream role & why?

S.W: Probably a character like Abed in a show like Community. I just really like Community…like really, really, really like!

  1. What do you think about the current state of diversity in Australian theatre, tv and film? (and how can we make it better? Do u think one medium is better than the other?)

S.W: It’s hard to be objective but it definitely feels like some really, really positive things are happening. I think what’s really encouraging is that tastes are slowly shifting. Audiences are more and more exposed to stories that are diverse and some of them are developing a taste for it.

Is it enough to justify from a purely economic standpoint, a business case for investing in more diverse stories right now? Maybe, maybe not! But it’s still a business risk. Of course you won’t get a hit show simply by ticking off as many ‘diversity’ boxes as you can…but if your competition can, and they do it well, then they’ll be changing the game and you’ll be playing catch up.

I think this is already happening. It’s just a question of how far can it go and who’s voices are still being excluded.

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  1. Where do you think you will be in 10 years time? 

S.W: Hopefully still pursuing a career in this industry…fingers-crossed!!!

  1. What advice do you have for upcoming actors?

S.W: My favourite advice is that everyone’s running their own race…

Followed closely by stupidity is a very special quality…But then again, if you’re pursuing a career in acting…you probably have an abundance of it! Good job! And keep going!

Diversity Spotlight: Interview with Alex Lykos about his latest film, “Me and my left brain,” & his latest idea for the Oz film industry.

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Alex Lykos makes his directing debut, a new Australian comedy called Me & My Left Brain & is the writer of the successful Aussie movie – Alex and Eve.

Me & My Left Brain stars Mal Kennard as Left Brain (Catching Milat), Rachel Beck as Vivien (Hey Dad!), Chantelle Barry as Helen (Entourage) and Laura Dundovic as Sandra (Ruben Guthrie) as well as Lykos who plays the film’s central character Arthur – his second acting role after a brief appearance in Alex & Eve.

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J.H: What inspired you want to make, Me and my left brain?
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A.L: The making of Alex & Eve film wasn’t a pleasant experience for me. And coming from the theatre whereby we were putting on 2 shows a year, the process of filmmaking felt extremely slow. We spent 6 years in development and I thought that there has to be a better way. So for my next film I adapted Me & My Left Brain which I knew could be shot on a much lower budget and therefore get it made much quicker. 
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J.H: How did you come to choose your actors? (What was your casting process?)
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A.L: Being the writer of the film, I had a strong but abstract idea of what I was looking for. I put together a shortlist of names for each role and then met with prospective actors. For example, for the role of Left Brain, I planned to me with Mal Kennard for half-hour. Two-hours later, we were finishing each other’s sentences. The chemistry was instant. 
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J.H: Do you see a change in the TV and cinema landscape regarding diversity? 
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A.L: I think now there is a strong push at both the state level of government and an overall acknowledgement from the public that we are a diverse nation. And with more and more creatives from a CALD background, there is a shift in progress, which will gain momentum and down the road the shift will be exponential.
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J.H: You are one of this year’s judges for the annual Joy House Film Festival, what are you looking out for & what makes a great film? 
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A.L: I always gravitate to good story with interesting characters. Production values are nice but they do not make or break a film for me. If the story is good, I wont notice the production values. 
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J.H: You’ve come up with a great idea attracting the Australian public to come and see more Australian Films, what made you come to think of this and what is it exactly?
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A.L: The idea came to me as we prepare to promote our film. Whilst brainstorming ideas I thought, what if Australians could watch Aussie movies for free? So from there I thought of an annual government cinema voucher scheme.
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J.H: When is “Me and my left brain?” coming out, where can we see it? 
A.L: The film was scheduled for release 16th May. However, we understand that the federal election is going to be called for Saturday 18th May — which will make it tough as the country is distracted at this time.
We are speaking with cinemas for an alternative date in June. We are waiting to confirm this new date if it is possible.
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Alex Lykos video link:

World Film Fair (New York) – filmmaking & distribution

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The first World Film Fair was held in New York on 26th to 31st October, 2018. Joy House Film Festival was invited to attend this event and we submitted all our 10 finalists’ work and one of our own feature films, The Casting Game, to be judged among thousands of entries from across the world.

The opening dinner was held at Trump Hotel, 1 Central Park West, New York, where many filmmakers and directors from other international festivals attended. Here media asked, “what makes a good film?” & “what makes your film festival different from all the other festivals in the world?” My answers were, “a great story and the right chemistry of characters/ actors, especially the leads and the way the film was shot – cinematography.” (Key points I’ve learned from Australian distributors.) The answer to the second question was, “to spread joy through the many films selected and awareness in diversity – not only through the casting of the actors but through the story itself. My aim is for people to feel uplifted after attending my festival and hope for social change in thought, action and behaviour. To change people’s views – acceptance, forgiveness, kindness and paying it forward. These have been popular themes for Joy House Film Festival films and my own work.”

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The films were shown at The Producer’s Club in uptown New York and Cinepolis in Chelsea. They were screened on rotation from 10am to midnight over four days. Here I was lucky to meet some wonderful filmmakers from New York, Los Angeles and Switzerland. Jillie Simon, Markus Otz, Emine Dursun, Phillip Walker. They were generous in sharing their thoughts about filmmaking. Many shared the importance of choosing people well, ones who are positive and enthusiastic throughout filming and who can actually deliver, in terms of cast and crew. And the importance of selecting great talent. I admire Jillie Simon’s tenacity in casting Eric Roberts in her film, “Hungry.” It took great persistence and it paid off in the end as her film has been selected in many festivals and won over a dozen awards. Well done Jillie!

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On closing night, it was a great surprise that our 2018 Joy House Film Festival winner, “Joy and Heron” won best World Film Fair’s international animation award, and “Give me a minute” won best World Film Fair short film in Australia/N.Z/Asia & “The Casting Game” won best World Film Fair feature film in Australia/N.Z./Asia too.

World Film Fair best animation  World Film Fair Give me a minuteWorld Film Fair Best Australian Film

I went to New York with no expectations as I was just happy that our films were selected for exhibition and came back extremely proud and chuffed that our films were well received and won awards. We look forward to World Film Fair 2019.

DISTRIBUTION     

While over in New York I was fortunate to meet distributors outside from World Film Fair. I’d like to share some important food for thought & lessons I’ve learned, as I’d like filmmakers in my shoes to be prepared and receive contract deals too.

Firstly, always make contact before going there and show a press kit of your film, trailer and a private link to your film too. Some distributors may only have time to read your press kit and see your trailer, so carry a USB of the best parts of your film and your whole film too – they’ll probably have time to just watch 10 mins of your film with you. Others do watch your film privately.

Secondly, they’ll ask for the budget breakdown of your film. Who brought in what. Never give a budget based on in-kind work or evaluations, as I learned in Australia in my first ever distribution meeting, that the market value for some work is based on experience and to over value your work as first time filmmakers is perceived to be arrogant / narcissistic. So keep the figures real. Over here I was asked, “Were your E.P.’s on board in title/name only, where they bring in at least a fifth of the budget and finish their work when filming finishes or are your E.P.s on board fully-fledged, finishing after the festival circuit is complete and distribution, and have ownership of rights / profits etc?” Also distributors would like to see a copy of the chain of title – rights to the story and ask what each of you are currently doing.

During conversation, you’ll be asked what made you want to tell your story and why you’re the best person to tell that story. It’s also great to find a connection with the person you’re dealing with, like I did with one here. It’s important to show humility – we talked about how life is too short to hold grudges and the power of forgiveness, and we connected when talking about our fathers.

Once you break down any fronts/barriers a person may have and just be in the moment, (don’t go in with any preconceived ideas or perceptions or expectations, and if you have a good enough product that has won awards, and has been selected into festivals), you have a greater chance in securing a distribution deal. I hope this helps you in reaching your goals and dreams as filmmakers. Don’t ever expect things in life as you’ll be greatly disappointed, just enjoy the ride!

world film fair the producers club

Crazy Rich Asians review

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Crazy Rich Asians opened in Australia this week with a buzz. After making 25 million in its second weekend (U.S) it’s shaping up to be one of 2018’s best movies all year. The film has now brought in an estimated $76.8 million domestically, more than doubled the cost of making the film. A sequel is now reportedly in development.

Crazy Rich Asians is based on Kevin Kwan’s best selling novel of the same title and is the second film since Joy Luck Club with a majority Asian Cast. (That’s been 25 years!) Being of Asian descent myself, I’ve never felt so excited seeing an outstanding ensemble cast, with relatable characters, both lead and supporting, who I could identify with – especially the aunties in Singapore.

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This film has been celebrated as being ground breaking for everything being Asian-American in Hollywood to portraying strong, self assured female leads, challenging stereotypes about motherhood, womanhood and mother child relationships. Unlike Joy Luck Club, these women are not traditional, tiger mums or immigrant women, they are modern day strong women. I love the broad age range of these women portrayed on film and hope for more movies like this to be made, as it’s proved to be popular with the general public.

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It follows the life of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding) as they travel to Singapore for Nick’s best friend’s wedding. Little does Rachel know that Nick’s family are royalty in Singapore and about to experience his life of living insanely wealthy. The whole journey is an eye opener for Rachel who has lived modestly in America (New York) her whole life. Rachel then meets Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) who doesn’t believe she is good enough for Nick. Here trouble begins for the lovebirds…

Most of the best laughs in the movie come from Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight)

and Ken Jeong (The Hangover) as Rachel’s college friend Peik Lin.

This was a wonderful feel-good Rom-Com, one of the best I’ve seen

for a long time.

 

I rate this movie a 9/10.

 

Crazy Rich Asians trailer

 

Photos by Jimmy Yang & Crazy Rich Asians & Kevin Kwan.

 

Film Review: Hearts Beat Loud

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

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

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

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

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

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

Directed by Brett HaleyDrama, 1hour 37m

Diversity Spotlight interview with filmmaker – Matthew Victor Pastor

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

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

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

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

JH: Who were your role models growing up? 

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

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JH: How do you find your stories?

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

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

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

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JH: What is your casting process?

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

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

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

JH: What is your current project?

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

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

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

 

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