Thursday, February 21, 2019

[MEDIA] 'A lot of tears and laughter': Exhibition explores women's power

Maria Tran and Nancy Trieu at the Primordial exhibtion. Picture: Simon Bennett
Maria Tran and Nancy Trieu at the Primordial exhibtion. Picture: Simon Bennett

rimordial - a photographic and film exhibition that explores women's power, strength and challenges of being an artist and a women - launched earlier this month at the Fairfield School of Arts.

The Champion caught up with Maria Tran and Nancy Trieu who collaborated on the project which explores women's raw power through the use of four key elements fire, water, wind and earth.

The exhibition features a photo series alongside a montage documentary from collaborating artists: Karen Therese, Mouna Zaylah, Lina Kastoumis, Layla Mkhayber, Hawanatu Bangura, Donita Hulme, Bee Cruse, Sue Ismiel and Dai Le. It will return in April.

Champion: What inspired the exhibition?

Nancy: Maria and I met each other and just sat down and bounced around some ideas.

Maria: We always found that women that are doing great work in the arts are under-recognised and not really seen. They're known for doing great work but they are not actually celebrated. So we thought this was a great opportunity for us to find out who is doing what in the western Sydney community, as well as get them to be involved in something they probably have never done before which is a photographic portrait of themselves, as well take part in a very powerful documentary.

Champion: What does the documentary feature?

Nancy: A lot of it is reflecting on what it means to be a women and a artist and the challenges we all go through.

Maria: A lot of these women, especially from western Sydney, didn't choose to be in the arts. They kind of fell into it and stumbled into it and never left it because they fell in love with the fact with the amount of change they are able to make through the programs they ran or the workshops they did or the art pieces that created and being from western Sydney they were able share their work with different culture diverse groups.

A lot of the time we think an artist's inspiration coming from within but with community art, it is art that is created in collaboration with other artists and the community and I find that type of art is more powerful.

Champion: What was it like for the artists to be on the other side of the camera?

Nancy: A lot of the artists are always behind the camera...the ones that create. It was a different experience for them.

Maria: A lot of tears, laughter and lots of emotion came through the documentary interview session and then they were was a photo shoot that was all about them and being in their element. One artist Mouna Zaylah she is renowned as stern and serious and we got that smile out of here and we displayed that.

Champion: What was the reaction like on opening night?

Maria: We had a great turn out and a lot people saying they want to see it. It's great to see that demand, especially in Fairfield. A lot of people came from other parts of Sydney. It's fantastic and humbling we could have that effect.

Karen Therese, Merryn O'Sullivan, Maria Tran, Therese Chen, and Nancy Trieu at the ' Primordial exhibition at the Fairfield School of Arts. Picture: Simon Bennett

Champion: Was there one story that stood out?

Maria: All the stories were very powerful. There were stories of growing up with different cultures and domestic violence and how it help shape who they are and how they embraced the arts to not only empower themselves but empower other people - especially refugees coming from overseas and settling in Fairfield - and how them help them running workshops to cope with trauma

Nancy: They keep giving back through all the pain. They put their story out there to give back.

Maria: When we did this project there was a lot of anxiety from the artists was they were not good enough. The consensus of these women was they weren't good enough to be apart of this. That is why we had to do this; to recognise the women who are doing amazing works and putting them in the limelight.

Nancy: A lot of the artists said 'I don't think my story is good enough' but when we put it together it's amazing how powerful our voices and stories are.

Champion: What would your message be to aspiring female artists?

Maria: I think collaboration. The resources are so limited in western Sydney. A lot of people coming from this area it's hard for them to go to mum and dad say I'm doing an arts degree. I still think you can express yourself but you need to find your tribe, find other women doing things and find mentors. There is so much happening in Fairfield and there is so much opportunity to learn new skills.

Champion: Is there anything else you would like to say?

Nancy: This has been an amazing journey, but I delved deep and listened to other people’s stories and learnt to see beyond myself. Hearing how similar yet how powerful our own stories are and what creates what we do matters and how it can inspires and empowers others without even knowing.

Maria: We didn’t really know what we were getting into, but at the same time, we knew that it’s something that we should. This is something that hasn’t been done before so we should do it to see what we get. Hearing the other women’s voices allowed me to see other perspective. The more I understand other people’s journeys the more, as an artist, I’m allowed to see the bigger picture of humans and how we all come to be. I think it was such a powerful platform for these stories and voices to have a place to live.

The Primordial exhibition is managed by Phoenix Eye in collaboration with NAT Photography.

Power of Animals: 5 Life Lesson You get When They are Gone

Maria Tran at Kings Cross and giving the 'birdie'

At the beginning of the year of 2019, I found a swallow fledging at Kings Cross, Sydney on my way to a “Soul Power Workshop” run by Diane Bellchambers. The year started in a very metaphysical way and the introduction of a baby swallow bird was just another addition.
Maria Tran, Diane Bellchambers, Therese Chen & Nancy Trieu
So how I came across this little birdie was when I crossed the street and found this little one on the ground, motionless. I picked it up and it animatedly started to fly out onto the busy street and, ironically hit the side door of the car that reads “no birds”. I quickly ran towards it picked it up and once again, it struggled to fly off and hit a brick wall.
Chilled birdie
Annoyed, I casually walked up to it and spoke in English something along the lines of “You are either going to stay here by yourself or come with me, your choice and I don’t have time for this”. It stopped moving and eyeballed me straight in the face. I slowly picked it up and placed it on my arm and walked for another 30 minutes to my destination. Birdie showed no signs of protest and sat quietly.

For the next 8 hours, she actually sat in class with me. Every night and then, she’d chirped, but she was quietly sitting in my colleague Nancy Trieu’s lunchbox. During lunch, I walked to a nearby park to let her go, but she refused so I had no choice but to take in.

In Australia, swallows are wild, and they can’t be domesticated. Like most wild birds, they will try to get away from you or look for food. Not this one. She (I’ll call her that, but I wouldn’t really know) was very different. She had very “human” features. She was patient, observant and at times very cheeky and talkative. She lived pass the 48 hours marked and stayed with us for another 3 weeks.
"Phoebe" the birdie meets "Happy" the dog
She's sleeping on the chopstick

Her new home

Just hanging

In the following three weeks, she ventured with us to our production company in Fairfield, watching us edit, eating loads of meal worms, singing and playing peakaboo with us. She brought myself and my team members great joy and she represented many attributes that we as humans strive for; resilience and overcoming adversity.

Sadly, she passed away on the 3 week mark. After a few days of a strange heat wave that came through Sydney, followed by wet cold weathers, “Phoebe” passed away.

The following morning, myself and the Phoenix Eye girls decided to give her back to the earth, and so we conducted a funeral ceremony at the 162 year old Oak tree in Carramar.

I gave the girls individual tasks from digging the hole, lighting the incense and preparing Phoebe’s body with oils, stones and flowers to help her make the transition into the after life.

We then watched the sunrise in meditation as well as reflecting on the beauty of what life brings.

5 Things you learn when face with death:

1.      Death Is Inevitable

It will happen to all of us and it doesn’t discriminate between bad or good. Losing something you love is tough and regardless of how much joy was experienced prior, death can still strike unexpectedly.

2.      Time Is Extremely Limited

Time always goes forward and never backwards and hence, we should really see the time we have as a gift and live our lives at it’s fullest and most inspired. To many people live in fear and in pain or find ways to “kill time” as if they are immortal. The truth is, you will die one day. Get that into your head and start embracing life.

3.       Memories

When something passes away, the only thing that you have is memories. Hence, it is a reminder for everyone to live a life full of kindness and as much positive impact. Be the change you want to be in this world and give as much as you can.

    4. Health is Wealth

Do not forgo health for wealth. Chasing all the money in the world and a material lifestyle and trading in your health is setting yourself up for major regret when your health deteriorates. All the riches in the world cannot fix your health if it is going on a downward spiral. So do your best to consistently eat healthier, exercise, meditate, enjoy nature and spend time making memories with those you love most.

5.      Do What You Can, When You Can

Live a full life. Forgo the what-ifs, should’ve, could’ve, or would’ve done moments. Explore and travel in the physical as well as the metaphysical world. Connect deeply with family members and friends. Be passionate about your life and do as much as possible to keep on growing.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Happy 34th Birthday to MARIA TRAN!

34 y.o in 2019 is a year of spiritual awakening

Today is my birthday. I'm 34. I don't mind telling you my age, as it is just a number. I'm very proud of my achievements but more so, what is on my mind for the future.

My birthday, is a day where I focus on giving back to 'me'. I started the day waking up at 5am. It's been 30 days straight and another daily ritual I'm keeping. Waking up at 5am means that you are ahead of 95% of the world's population, meaning you get extra hours to be productive and reflective on your journey.

I then did some decluttering as I gave to charity 8 garbage full of "stuff" and clothes and things I just don't need in my life and have had them around because I worried that I might need it in the future.

By lunchtime, I drop by my Phoenix Eye office to share a birthday moment with my work colleagues with a fresh, wholesome lunch and my very own homemade, vegan, sugar free, gluten free, paleo, keto chocolate birthday cake! tastes great!

100% Vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, keto, paleo Chocolate Cake 
Yes I'm in love with this cake because I made it from scratch!

Also, I would like to celebrate me being a vegan for the past year! I definitely don't miss the meat, cheese, milk etc... as I've started to meal prep and plan all my delicious homemade meals. Once you learn how to cook, there's no need to eat out.

Some of you may say, that's a social life killer, but for me, I love being me, and have amazing people that gravitate towards me on the majority of days and our work at Phoenix Eye is so much fun and fulfilling that we don't feel like it's work.

Phoenix Eye & PYT Fairfield are my loves

I wanted to say that since 2019 arrived, I feel like a brand new me has emerged and I would like to share with you. My life has taken a fulfilling course, it's "awakening", "spiritual", "soulful", "manifesting", "powerful", "visionary" and "destined for big things".

Some of you may be reading this and thinking, "Maria's gone a bit hippy", but trust me, it's an amazing feel and state when you are free from the constraints of social expectations and mundane reality.

Freedom from the fears, anxieties, pain, judgement & negativity and it all starts from your mind. How simple is that! But of course that requires you to believe in yourself (skills & abilities) and at the same time, look beyond 'yourself' and how 'you' will be able to 'serve' the greater good. Majority of people will do things to 'serve' themselves first. But to be able to 'serve' others first, you also 'serve' yourself as a by product.

After that, I visited my sister, gloated to her about my amazing cake, visited little Phoebe the bird and then spent time at the Oakdene Tree with a moment mindfulness meditation.

I've only started this practice the last 30 days, and it is something I'm keeping for the rest of my life. Meditating at the 160 year old tree is very special as I can literally feel it's energies charging me up like a battery and coursing through my veins.

Then I hopped on the train and headed to the Redfern Acting Studio to drop in to watch a Meisner class run by Hunter McMahon to keep my mind open to what I'm trying to excel in for 2019 - Acting. It was a great class and Hunter was an in tune trainer.

I feel like I am both learner and teacher in one and it is my duty to spread this awareness through my many interactions with other people, there are many things I can learn from them as they can learn from myself. I hope everyone's birthday is enlightening. I wish you all a special day -- everyday!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Filming Legal Aid's "The Knot Family"

Date: 25-27 Sept, 17

25 Sept: It's been a while since I've blogged (a couple of years so to speak) but for my journey and reflection, I shall share my insights and knowledge. I'm currently casted as "Mai Ngo" on a training video and had a fair bit of lines to chew. I must admit, I'm use to being an "action" type of actor but am proud to be able to get in the actor zone, spit out the lines and feel comfortable with the range of emotions. 

26 Sept: Great day on set and acting with Lyn Collingwood (13 years on "Home 'n' Away"). She spoke to me about the lack of diversity on screens and her experiences on acting on Australian TV. She started out acting during her university days. She loves being able to create characters and learns lines well when she's able to grasp the narrative and belief in her lines. Great actors take directions well and hits the mark first/ second time. She spoke about working with Chris Hemsworth and seeing his detail and professionalism. 

So where does that leave me? Well I'm still on my path to becoming an all rounded one day memorable actor with great skill and range. I stumbled into it in 2007; a time when acting was just pulling faces, but I'm now constantly pushing myself onscreen and behind. Time moves fast and forward and I have to keep up the momentum and energy despite opportunities (or lack of) in the film ecosystem. Onwards and upwards!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Inner Rantings....

I hate this. It's always at the back of my head to 'blog' and I keep on letting in slide and 'forget'. The last time I properly caress this space was mid last year and since then, I've been doing a bunch of things, as usual, but lately everything seems to making more sense.

So what's new? Well the biggest thing to date would have to be owning your own space. Trung Ly, my engineering prodigy of a partner of mine had taken the leap and bought up 1/10 Childs Rd, Chipping Norton. This is a fabulous hidden gem, only 12 mins from Cabramatta and a now transformed martial arts, tutoring, arts creative, film screening space where the diverse Asian communities can get together and jam their ideas till their hearts content.

Throughout the years, I've outgrown my mother's 2 bedroom unit, my father's make shift D.I.Y sun room and even an ancestral shrine at Dong Tam. Now, I get my very own kick butt multimedia space where I can conduct all my meetings, screenings and training. The great thing is, it is a shared space and I'm quite to opposite to the artist in solitude. I love people's developments and transformations and being able to view it from my window as I edit the latest project, is rewarding.

Speaking of projects, "Maximum Choppage" ABC2 6 part TV series has just finished airing. Most definitely an interesting project, one that provided great insights towards how projects are made in accordance to the Australian film industry. There were definitely great friendships and memorable moments during the behind-the-scenes and seeing it all on Australian television felt like a great achievement. However, it doesn't mean the fight for on screen diversity stops here. It's just the beginning and in fact, great fuel for my own personal fire to get my own shit up and running.

Similarly "mychonny" a.k.a John Luc have broke ground when he got "My Chonny Moves In" through RK Pix and Screen Australia. John wrote and directed the series, some one say his humour isn't their taste, but wait a minute, how many views has he generated? 200,000 views, 10,000 likes and 500 comments, now that's the spirit.

Hence, that is where the next generation of content creation is veering - where the demand is.

Anyhow, so late last year I was whiffed away back to China to make another action movie called "Death Mist" (sounds ridiculous huh?), and it was great to be reunited with the same cast and director (Antony Szeto). I'm not sure when it's hitting China theatres but one can say your craft expands when you put it into practice more and to be honest, in Australia, it's a hard slog. 95% of my showreel is made from independent projects that I either wrote/produced/ directed. The 4% of that is my overseas work and 1% is when I play the common shop owner or prostitute on mainstream TV. That's the reality of it my fellow Asian actors, there's no consistent work in this country and if there are roles, they are simply written by white people or hardcore bananas who exoticise our stories to be oh so "chopsocky". I for one, am over it, over pretending to be that nice little Asian girl who is ever so obedient and efficient. Rant. Rant. Rant.

Finally the end of the year saw me commissioned to make 37 "Foodielicious" clips for Fairfield City Council, which I found unexpectantly doing quite well on the online world. Who would know that food porn is popular? This is has now led me to today and on the road to making another 37 as well as 5 mini docos that explore Asian cultures. Neat! Then, about a month ago it hit me, what it I make a TV show hosted by Asian-Australians called "Yell-oh! TV". A phone call to Foxtel and the next thing you know, it's on its way and scheduled production in September. Gotta be a go getter and fearless to get what you want.

Then there's the other side of my work plate where I'm working on the photo collection of a 5 metre wall in Cabramatta that will hold 300 photos printed on tiles for the next 20 years, in parallel to a documentary project that I'll be directing in July called "Vietnamese Mosaic: 40 Years Settlement in Australia". And did someone say "Quest for Jackie!"? Lol...who knows when that finishes when there are other things kicking off that has the bling, bling attached.

I'm going to leave it there now.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

NEW: From blog to Vlog

Life diaries can be so time consuming even though they are quite worthwhile in documenting your life for years to come. I've now taken the pleasure in vlogging my daily-weekly adventures. Life is for celebrating and there is plenty delights in mini stories of your life.

Anyhow, back to basics; only less than 3 weeks to the show I've been working on kicks off and so here's an update.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

THEATRE: "It's War!" Written/ Directed by Alex Lykos

When I first heard of this project, I was a little reluctant to get on board. There's plenty of wannabe theatre makers out there that keep on making content that just don't gel with audiences....entertainment them....or at least is thought provoking.

Also, there's just not much going around from ethnic artists that tell stories from the inside out, instead of the other way around. Then there's Alex Lykos -- a theatre maker underdoggie champion of the Greek community. His long time success is theatre-turned-movie "Alex & Eve". 

Lykos is quite a humble man. He loves his track-a-dacks but operates like clockwork and there's no airy fairiness when it comes it rehearsal scheduling. His directing style is quite similar to mine, unconventional and quite emotive and I'm in awe on how he works. 

Theatre is a relatively new craft to me. I've done a couple of play before such as facilitating "Aussie Cuoi" with Lex Marinos and a few snippety martial arts based performances. Then there's Playwriting Australia's Lotus Program that I got a chance to get the lowdown in play writing. 

But this play is exciting. I play Vietnamese import "Ngoc Bich" and this is a crazy colourful character that is a reflection of my mum and aunts in a blender.
There's a lot of "Domas" to be heard from my fiesty pocket rocket character, and her wannabe fight stances will sure be a crack up as she tries on several punch ups with her Greek counterpart; Soula. I'm not going to say much more, you have to come to the play.

A couple things I love about this play and commend it for it economics. Small cast, small staging but large stories and a whole lot of wackiness. 

Working with Lykos makes me inspired to get into theatre. Film is my thing, I know; but theatre is so exciting and lived experience. I think my acting has improved exponentially as well! I'm able to digest pages of scripting and present it's truth. No fear. Just character. 
Love it! Do book in to see the show!

Friday, August 29, 2014

TEACHING: Sutherland Christian Shire School

I love teaching. In between the diverse projects that occupy every moment of my life; my bread and butter from teaching film is a blessing. I had an opportunity to travel all the way to the Shire, work with 14 students in making 3 films: a social twerking mockumentary, a film about the personification of feelings and a futuristic world where everything is in sync.
Teaching is a breathe of fresh air. I get to give kids my tried and tested knowledge and divulge into their own creativity. It gets even more exciting when dull kids are running around and motivated to get all the shots and then plunge into a tight editing deadline.  What's more impressive is when they go out the way to get the highest production value they can get on their 5 hour shoots.