Film Review – Three Summers

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Over three years, the same people attend a music festival Westival, staged in rural outback Western Australia and during this time relationships change and evolve.

The main storyline concentrates on the love story between Keevy (Rebecca Breeds), a down to earth pub band fiddler, and theremin player Roland (Robert Sheehan), together they meet at the festival. Roland encourages Keevy to apply to a music conservatorium which causes great drama, especially with Keevy’s father played by John Waters. There are great supporting characters in the film, such as Michael Caton, who plays a racist and Magda Szubanski who is the community radio announcer and Deborah Mailman who plays a therapist who runs the festival’s Alcoholics Anonymous sessions. As a secondary storyline, the film concentrates on some aspects of contemporary Australian society such as the plight of refugees left in unlimited detention and the problems some Aboriginals experience in their communities.

The film was beautifully shot, capturing the beautiful Aussie outback in rural Western Australia. It also ticked all the boxes which is a good step forward in terms of diversity, portraying Multicultural Australia in film. My only question is, “Did the filmmaker concentrate on ticking all the boxes more so than creating a more organic storyline?”

Ben Elton says, “The idea for Three Summers came about during one of my family trips to the Fairbridge Folk Festival in WA. I was sitting in the bar tent doing some people watching, there’s such a rich tapestry of humanity at these sorts of family music events and so much comedy. People from different walks of life suddenly living in a field together with only sheets of canvas and polyester between them. Everybody’s equal in the queue for the portaloos!”

Three Summers’ Aussie soundtrack includes tracks by Little Birdy, Dan Sultan, the John Butler Trio, Xavier Rudd, Gotye, Sarah Blasko , Dr. G. Yunupingu and many more.

The Run time 102 minutes

6.5/10

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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 Kalo Fainu from Pasifika Film Festival about diversity

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Q.1. Please tell us about Pasifika film festival’s aim?
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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
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Q.2. Why did you start your festival?
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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.
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Q.3. Do you think there’s enough diversity in film festivals across the board in Australia?
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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.

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

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Q.5. What’s one of your favourite films of all time (in your festival) and why?
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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.
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Q.6. When filmmakers are submitting their films, what do you look for and why?
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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.

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

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Q and A Interview with screenwriter / producer / director – Tony Ayres

Tony Ayres (born 16 July 1961) is a Chinese-born Australian screenwriter, director in television and feature film. He is most notable for his films Walking on Water and The Home Song Stories, as well his work in television –The Slap and teen adventure series Nowhere Boys. He’s Executive producer on Maximum Choppage (a six part kung fu comedy series for the ABC starring Lawrence Leung) and The Family Law (six part comedy series for SBS based upon the memoirs of Chinese Australian journalist, Benjamin Law).

Tony Ayres

Q. When you were growing up who were your role models on Australian TV & Film?

Tony: When I was a kid, I actually avoided Australian film and TV.  There was nothing that I watched, except for getting the occasional guilty glimpse of “Number 96” or “The Box”.  Perhaps it was because I felt a typical Australian cultural cringe?  Or perhaps because there was no one on the screen who represented “me”?  Or some weird amalgam of both.  The shows I loved were mainly American TV shows.

Q. What made you want to break into Australian TV / Film?

Tony: I had always loved words and wanted to be a writer, but half way through my university degree, I realised that academia was killing my passion for literature.  I ended up changing to a visual arts degree at the Canberra School of Art.  If I had found a creative writing course, I probably would have done that.  Film and TV for me was never a driving  passion, more a logical deduction.  Words + plus pictures = screen.  It was only when I started getting into the area that I grew to love it.

Q. How did you get started in your career? 

Tony: After film schools (both VCA and AFTRS), I started work as a TV writer, and was fortunate enough to get work from the start.  Lucky, because I entered the industry relatively late (my late twenties).  Those were the days when SBS was starting to produce scripted drama, and there was a greater appetite for multicultural stories.  I wrote a number of TV plays for a number of anthology series- “Under the Skin”, “Six Pack” and “Naked-  Stories of Men”- which gave me a grounding in writing drama.  As well, I started directing documentaries and short dramas which gave me a taste for directing.  I feel like I was at the right time at the right  place because I was able to make an early career out of the marginal identity politics which I was personally grappling with-  being Chinese, being gay, being Chinese and gay.  I think that’s harder to do these days.

Q. Do you see a positive change to colour blind casting in Australian TV / Film and Theatre and do you incorporate this method of casting in your own productions? 

Tony: Honestly, whilst I think the rhetoric has evolved, in the scripted area  I don’t think that there has been a substantial change in terms of colour blind casting.  Every few years a non-Anglo actor will do a significant film or TV role and in the press junket raise the question of diversity as a public issue.  There will be a flurry of associated articles, and these days a bunch of “likes” on Facebook, but soon after the status quo will settle again.  The network mental “default” will still to be to white.  Non-white cultures will still be massively under-represented.  It will be just as hard for non-Anglo actors who attract attention through a breakout role to sustain their careers.  Diversity for the Australian entertainment industry is like “gay marriage” for Australian politics.  A lot of people believe in it, but few people are prepared to cross the floor to vote for it.

For there to be substantial change, I think that it’s about the people who are genuinely invested in the issue of diversity (ie people from diverse backgrounds themselves) becoming the decision makers, the commissioners, the network executives, the makers.   I guess I’d look at my own work as an example.  Diversity is important to me because I have personally felt the effect/damage of growing up Chinese in a white culture.   So, it’s one of the determinants of what I do.  My kids show, “Nowhere Boys” has a recurring role for a Chinese Australian actor (and the actors playing his family).  I’m currently executive producing “Maximum Choppage” (six part kung fu comedy series for the ABC starring Lawrence Leung) and  “The Family Law” (six part comedy series for SBS based upon the memoirs of Chinese Australian journalist, Benjamin Law).  And I’m also EP’ing a feature film, “Ali’s Wedding”, a Muslim romantic comedy.

Q. What changes do you want to see happen in the entertainment industry?

Tony: In terms of diversity, I’d like the Australian government funding bodies to take this issue seriously enough to create some kind of quota system in terms of representation.  The US and UK industries have both found relatively benign ways to legislate for diversity, and I don’t think it’s harmed their products or their share of the world market.

Finally what projects are you currently working on? 

Tony: Aside from the shows listed above, I’m also executive producing a new show for ABC Drama called “Glitch” which is the ABC’s first supernatural TV series, and EP’ing and co-writing the feature film version of “Nowhere Boys”.   There are some exciting new projects in early days as well, yet to be announced.  But a recurring theme of diversity can be traced through them all.

The Best of the Joy House Film Festival (2015)

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The best of the Joy House Film Festival was on last weekend as part of Perth’s Summerset Arts Festival, on the 1st February, 2015, celebrating the theme of “joy” and “diversity!”

The crowd was treated to an entertaining afternoon with a great selection of short films, ranging from: drama, documentary, drama-comedy, animation, stop animation & action films. They included Hannah Klassek’s Anon, Michelle Lia’s Indigenous film Grandma, George Dot Play’s Candy Crush Saga, Tonnette Stanford’s dog movie Wally, Pearl Tan’s documentary Minority Box, Josh Lorschy’s animation We Are World Change (Youth), Mansour Noor’s Origami, Valentina Buay‘s “Joy of Slowing Down (Youth).” 

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The crowd enjoyed the films, show bags and fun giveaway prizes which included Baker’s Delight vouchers and Hoyts vouchers. “The purpose of the Joy House Film Festival is not only to give a platform for emerging filmmakers to showcase their stories of joy and diversity but it’s also encouraging the general public to pay it forward to spread joy and kindness!”

Summerset Arts Festival

Entries for this year’s Joy House Film Festival is now open. Details on http://www.joy.net.au

Does the Australian arts truly represent our modern society?

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Members of the Diversity committee

Does the Australian arts (film, TV, theatre etc) truly represent our modern society?

The simple answer is No…not yet, but the wheels are in motion.

On the 5th  July, 2013, MEAA (Media Entertainment Arts Alliance) established a Diversity Committee to promote and advocate for more realistic representations on Australia’s screens and stages for a more inclusive industry. About forty performers from varying performance backgrounds, ethnicities and areas of Australia are on the Committee, as well as a panel of arts industry professionals who together look at the current state of the arts. The Equity Diversity Committee considers diverse casting to include the casting of ethnic minority performers, women performers and performers with disability in roles where race, ethnicity, gender or the presence or absence of a disability is not essential to the plot.

The Guardian recently reported that five Sydney and Melbourne theatres have been criticised for an absence of curatorial ideas in their 2015 seasons, failing to engage with the contemporary Australian and world politics for being very “white”.

Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company tend to be “about big names” and “driven by star power”, says Lachlan Philpott, chair of the Australian Writer’s Guild playwrights committee.

At STC, only Kylie Coolwell’s Battle of Waterloo, a portrait of a contemporary Indigenous community, seems to be driven by a wider ambition to reflect contemporary Australian society.

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Playwriting Australia is, however, to be commended for having a diverse cast of readers for their 2014 National Play Festival. Two plays which showed a diverse cast includes – Moths by Michele Lee and Thieves by Kathryn Ash. With Thieves, two characters in the play were non-specific in race, actors Pearl Tan and Haiha Le played the “Australian” female characters. This clever “colour blind” casting decision is something that needs to be more apparent in all areas of the performing arts casting in order to correctly represent our society as it stands today, as our younger generation need to feel that they belong in society, our culture. The only other two plays this year which notably showed “diversity” were Kim Carpenter & John Bell’s Monkey (Bell Shakespeare) with Aljin Abella, Aileen Huynh, Ivy Mak and Lia Reutens and Alex Lykos’ (BullDog Theatre Company) “It’s War” starring Maria Tran in the title role.

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Television ,however, is the more powerful medium because it is more accessible to everyone, especially online. When I was growing up we didn’t have computers and there was very few people who I could identify with on television who looked like me apart from news journalist Lee Lin Chin, who Dad used to watch on SBS news and Alison Fan on Channel Seven News in Perth. It wasn’t until I was on university prac when I had a discussion with school students who said that they wanted to work in television but they didn’t see anyone looking like them on screen. This motivated me to audition to be a presenter on Play School. After two audition attempts I got the role but it wasn’t luck in my case; it was pure hard work and determination.

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In the last few years I have slowly noticed a change in television as reality television has dominated. I’ve watched the rise of outstanding talent with Dami Im and Marlissa winning X-Factor due to public voting, as well as Poh Ling Yeow being runner up in Masterchef. This shows that Australians want real representations of our multicultural society.

 

On the 26th October, 2014, it was M.E.A.A.’s 75th Anniversary and they held a special summit with Creativity and Diversity as their main two themes. Adam Moore, SAG’s National Associate Director of Affirmative action and Diversity was the keynote speaker. He stated in his address to the audience that in the United States, statistics prove that films and T.V. programs which show “diversity” attract a much wider audience, hence more dollars in the networks’ pockets and at the box office. Moore encourages all people in the position of power to take note as “diversity is not a liability it is an asset!” After his speech he received a standing ovation from the crowd. Visionaries like him are rare, but hopefully becoming more common. I hope his speech inspires those who work in the industry to take note and put his words into action.

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FREE UPCOMING EVENT

A Multicultural Community Forum and Q & A will feature Equity Diversity Committee Member / actor Joy Hopwood talking about the importance of Diversity in TV, Theatre & Film and the success of Equity’s 75th Summit and the goals of the Diversity committee along with Greens NSW Spokesperson for Multiculturalism, Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC, Asian Australian Alliance convenor’s Erin Chew and Freelance writer, playwright and novelist, Saman Shad.

When Saturday 15th November, 2pm-5pm                     Where: Unions NSW Building, Lvl 4, 20 Wentworth St, Parramatta

Free Light refreshments will be available.

Please RSVP to matthew.hilton@parliament.nsw.gov.au by Friday 7 November

 

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All photos courtesy of the Diversity Committee, Dami Im’s, Marlissa’s Facebook page and the Play School photo and Poh Ling Yeow’s photo courtesy of A.B.C.