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.

 

Launching Australia’s newest Diversity Fund

On Tuesday, 17th March, it was a great honour to help launch Australia’s newest Diversity Fund, founded by Pearl Tan (Pearly Productions) and Jessica Symes (Symes Group).

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ABOUT PEARL TAN

Pearl Tan is the director of Pearly Productions, creating independent films and producing videos for businesses and arts organisations. Her work focuses on diversity, as the creator of YouTube series ‘Minority Box’ and as co-chair of the Equity Diversity Committee. She graduated from the NIDA Acting course in 2005. Originally from Western Australia, she also holds a Communications degree majoring in Media Studies from Edith Cowan University.

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ABOUT JESSICA SYMES 

Jessica Symes has been a corporate trainer/ facilitator for the past ten years working with CEO’s, CFO’s, Executives and Politicians. She’s an experienced coach and facilitator, training 1.1 as well as small and large groups in the areas of Communications, Leadership, Team Building, Public Speaking, Corporate Presentations, Voice, Physical Impact/ Body Language, Media Training and Women in Business. In her earlier career has taught at all the major Drama and Acting Schools in Sydney. She is the CEO and Founder of the Symes Group which is a collection of Creative enterprises focused on empowering individuals and their orginisations to identify their goals and reach their full potential.

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Together, Pearly Productions and Symes Group launched the Independent Theatre Diversity Fund.  “The main goals of this fund are to give talented independent producers a way of putting on a show with more ease. The fund will provide a small cash budget, rehearsal space, a video trailer, stills photography, marketing and social media strategy advice and anything else that I can think of and can find support for!” says Pearl Tan.

There are wonderful examples of great indigenous work being produced (Sapphires, Redfern Now, Black Comedy etc) that are a result of financial support and mentorship from places like Screen Australia and the Australia Council. Learning from this model, Pearl says, they would love to support diverse work in a more general way to allow more opportunities for development of these unique storytellers. It also aims to bring awareness at a grassroots level, as it will encourage independent producers seeking financial and in-kind support for their show to analyse whether their production includes diversity.

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Augusta Supple was the first speaker in a line up of incredible speakers talking about the importance of diversity in art and business. Other amazing speakers included Alana Valentine, Anthony Skuse, Glen Boreham and myself. The vibe was electric with everyone excited to support diversity in the arts. Together we spoke how diversity has helped our business to grow and connect with the wider community. I hope this fund will also open the eyes of TV networks, film and theatre producers across our nation, so they can see the value and importance of diversity.

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JOY’S SPEECH 

It’s a great honour to be here today for the launch of Symes Group and Pearly Productions’ new Diversity Fund. I just wish there was something like this when I first started in the industry.

When I grew up in Australia there were very few people of colour in theatre, TV and in Film. No one I could identify with or look up to. I vividly remember my first day at school, I realized I was the only Chinese girl and at lunchtime, I watched & wanted to play basketball with the year six boys. I seized the moment when their basketball rolled out of the court and I quickly grabbed it and threw it back to them, hoping they’d ask me to join in and be their friend, but instead, they shouted, “Hands off our ball you bloody ugly JAP!” I paused and thought – Jap? But I’m an Aussie, an Aussie-Chinese?

If there was only representation of people looking like myself in theatre, TV and in film, with every day multicultural stories without stereotypes, perhaps that incident wouldn’t have occurred because acceptance was naturally portrayed. Also perhaps if there was diverse representation maybe people would be able to tell Chinese and Japanese people apart instead of thinking we Asians all look the same and we’re all related to each other!

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Australia is a diverse country with 1/3 of the Australian population born overseas. One in five Australians has a disability and three percent have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage. So we are a diverse society and this must be reflected, not only in the arts but in business too, because everyone needs to feel that they belong.

Theatre, film and TV are powerful mediums where this positive change can occur. Who would have thought that my experiences of racism were the driving force for me to want to work in the arts industry? It wasn’t until university when I was on prac, that an Aboriginal boy and a Chinese girl came up to me and told me that they wanted to work in the performing arts industry but they said, “You don’t see anyone looking like us on TV, so why should we even try?” I then blurted back, “Oh I’m going to be first Asian presenter on Play School and if I can achieve this you can too.” They both rolled their eyes and said, “Yeah right!”

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Those two kids were the driving force for me to sell everything I owned in Perth and move to Sydney where I bought a video camera and wrote my own Play School scripts and sent it to the ABC. After two attempts of auditioning, I won the role which was a breakthrough for Children’s TV. It’s not until many years later that I soon discovered the after effect it had on the next generation. It was only a month ago in my book club that a new member, a young Chinese girl came up to me and said, “Joy you got me through my school years because there were hardly any Asians at my country school. You made me feel that I was OK.”

After Play School I started up my own business Joy House Productions, where I produce the yearly Joy House Film Festival. This is a positive film festival showing short films with the theme of joy and diversity where we award a cash prize for not only best film but the best Diversity film too. Thanks to our sponsors like the Symes Group, as my festival would not be possible without them.

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Also my other project The Wong Side of life, a theatre play about bullying and racism with puppets and actors playing alongside each other, for children. It’s now in video form thanks to Pearly Productions who I collaborated with. This is now in schools and is most rewarding when a child comes up to me and says, “I always thought it was me with the problem!” and I always reply, “No it’s the bully or the racist with the problem, not you!”

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Both projects are equally important to me because of the “diversity” element.

Today we’re celebrating building communities, networking, supporting each other so together we can be a united force and a voice for diversity in the arts and in business. This Diversity fund is a step forward and has a positive snowball effect, paying it forward for a better future for a more inclusive society thanks to Pearl and Jessica. Thank you.

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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.