Friday Five - Interview with film-maker Chye-Ling Huang

"It just makes sense for the stories we see and tell to reflect our world and the diversity of the human experience. Homogenous and whitewashed storytelling is exclusive, damaging and frankly boring."

Two One One Three creatives recently featured PAT co-founder Chye-Ling Huang in their monthly article series 'Friday Five', where fimmakers are asked 5 questions about their process, stories and practice. After making The Han Chronicles and Asian Men Talk About Sex, team Two One One Three asked Chye-Ling about how these projects got off the ground and why we need stories like this to thrive.

You can check out the full series here!

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We loved watching your recent series The Han Chronicles (currently on TVNZ OnDemand). Where did this story come from, and what was the process of getting it onto this online platform?

The Han Chronicles is actually a true story of my Dad arriving in Christchurch in the 70’s, meeting my mum and falling in love. My Dad is a great storyteller with relentless optimism, huge heart and a massive sense of childlike humour and his experiences always stood out to me amongst other immigrant stories that I’ve seen on screen. There’s definitely a place for stories focusing on hardship and culture shock, but I was keen to show my Dad’s perspective which is full of discovery, fun and teenage antics – I think it’s important to have cool, positive Asian characters on our screens and my Dad was one swaggy young dude.

I was initially invited to a writer’s room where TVNZ were looking for new ideas for web content of any kind – as TV is mostly online now, they’re making a shift to creating more in-house local content which is awesome. About 8 ideas were chosen from that session, and from there it was all go. I had a lot of creative freedom and was able curate cast and crew and director which is always important to me when creating work with an Asian story at the centre. TVNZ launched it on youtube and their own platform, and it also got played on international channel Asian Crush.

In the past, you’ve done lots of theatre, but have recently turned to the screen. What’s behind this change in medium?

I grew up a very ‘analog’ kid with 3 sisters – we played in sandpits of rice, had a lot of toys and made our own games. Theatre always made sense to me as it’s a very hands on way of storytelling where you’re physically involved and can see it unfold in real time.

The technical side of film always scared me a little and as an English speaking Chinese New Zealander I never grew up with any particular screen heroes that inspired me to get into film. The Loading Docs initiative was the platform that got me making film – the callout was for stories around the theme of ‘diversity’, which led to my team being chosen to make our 3 min doco, Asian Men Talk About Sex, as one of 10 other films. This platform was an incredible mentoring opportunity and basically taught me everything from the story making process to marketing and distribution.

Chye-Ling Huang, director and Calvin Sang, DOP on the set of Asian Men Talk About Sex

Chye-Ling Huang, director and Calvin Sang, DOP on the set of Asian Men Talk About Sex

With such a supportive network and a super fun topic it was easy to get past the technical worries – the team around me really made it easy and I could focus on what I love most, the story and the people involved. Screen is super exciting in it’s reach and scope and I’m pretty hooked now.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched recently, and why?

Aside from the genius that was Thor, The Meyerwitz stories really got me excited. The dialogue was always revelatory; every time a character spoke, you dug deeper into the weird corners of their minds – nothing was arbitrary.

I love ensemble pieces in general and this one felt really connected with each story adding to the next. The Big Sick was inspiring from a representation standpoint as well as being super charming and surprisingly weird.

You are the co-founder of Proudly Asian Theatre, a company dedicated to giving a voice to Asian theatre artists in NZ. Why is diversity in storytelling important?

Because stories aren’t homogenous. It just makes sense for the stories we see and tell to reflect our world and the diversity of the human experience. Homogenous and whitewashed storytelling is exclusive, damaging and frankly boring.

People don’t realise just how influential mainstream storytelling is – films especially. Stories have the power to change the way we think about people and seeing yourself as the hero of the story is not only empowering, it’s normalising.

To exclude and sideline POC, women or any other marginalized group is to passively ‘other’ us for whoever consumes media, and as much as we like to think we’re immune to it, those ideas do stick.  Speaking as a POC filmmaker, it’s not enough to have one or two stories about POC experiences, because not every POC story is the same. It’s exciting to hear new voices and see things from different perspectives and we should embrace that.

Huang on the set of The Han Chronicles

Huang on the set of The Han Chronicles

Both Asian Men Talk About Sex and The Han Chronicles centre on male characters. Do you have any advice for young filmmakers wanting to create stories that aren’t necessarily their own? How do you stay relate to your subject if they are different to you (whether that’s gender, race, age etc)?

With AMTAS, myself and filmmakers Ruby Reihana-Wilson and Kelly Gilbride made 100% sure we were doing justice to the subjects and the story by folding in Asian men from the beginning. As an Asian woman I felt I had a strong place to stand from culturally, but I knew I could miss insights and nuances that come from the male perspective. James Roque, co-founder of PAT, advised us before we even begun.

Asian Men Talk About Sex kicks off with a casual pot-luck hosted by the team

Asian Men Talk About Sex kicks off with a casual pot-luck hosted by the team

We made sure our core crew were all Asian men, as well as having active advisor roles in Nathan Joe and Micheal McCabe who provided some great queer insights. Calvin, (our DOP and editor) and I had a fluid relationship to the storytelling and although I directed and interviewed, his input was key to making the story represent these guys in the way they wanted to be. So my advice would be to make sure you choose your team wisely, listen to them and create a community with like-minded intentions for the project you can trust to speak up.

Han Huang (left) meets Jarrod Lee (right), who acts as young Han in The Han Chronicles

Han Huang (left) meets Jarrod Lee (right), who acts as young Han in The Han Chronicles

Never be afraid to check your privilege & viewpoint on something you haven’t lived. I feel like I embark on projects I connect with regardless of gender or race, and if that connection is authentic I don’t feel like I have to force anything and find it easy to relate – I’m super interested in sex and race and it was great to look at it from another perspective.

Maybe because I’m from an acting background I find understanding easily in most stories, but there are of course stories I wouldn’t go for if someone else from that unique experience could do it better.

 

 

 

NZFC screening - Asian Men and The Han Chronicles

This month two PAT made films will feature in a New Zealand Film Commission screening at The Basement Theatre, alongside 10 other Kiwi-Asian made shorts:

The event is free to filmmakers and those interested in networking with Asian creatives

The event is free to filmmakers and those interested in networking with Asian creatives

"The idea is to showcase the wide range of screen projects by our local “Asia aware” talents, as well as putting a spotlight on these guys – both the creatives and the hardworking cast & crew," says Raymond Suen, Asia outreach executive for the film commission. 

Networking and celebrating Asian creatives, the film commission has put together the best shorts from Asian creatives made in the last year or so, to be presented in one incredible screening with drinks following.

We can't wait to see The Han Chronicles and Asian Men Talk About Sex once again on the big screen!

Upworthy certified! Asian Men Talk About Sex

We've been overwhelmed with the response to our short doco made with Loading Docs, Asian Men Talk About Sex, which was released a few months ago.

This month, we're stoked to be featured on Upworthy! 

We've reached over 90k views and we couldn't be happier that Kiwi-Asian stories are spreading around the world. Stay tuned for more updates on more sexy stories!

Yoson, James and Han compare stories

Yoson, James and Han compare stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luck and Talent - Xana Tang talks about her challenging role on SBS series Dead Lucky

“I’d like to see more original stories that include multicultural and multi-dimensional characters. Completely flawed characters that have a need to make the world a better place for themselves or for others. I think that’s what we’re all trying to do”

Xana Tang’s had a hell of a year. Known for playing the delightfully offbeat assistant ‘Cherry’ in seasons one and two of Filthy Rich, Xana is a hilarious and nuanced actress and a force to be reckoned with. Xana had her big break when she was still in high school, being cast in a leading role in Kiwi feature ‘Matariki'. Soon after she appeared as the lead in thedownlowconcept’s Greyhound racing television comedy series 'Hounds'.

After working her way through New Zealand TV and film and joining the world of casting and editing, this year she was cast on ABC-Netflix comedy series ‘The Letdown’. She then went straight into shooting for SBS series ‘Dead Lucky’, starring Rachel Griffiths and fellow Kiwi Yoson An.

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After a whirlwind year, PAT's director Chye-Ling Huang caught up with Xana about her most recent project, life on set and the differences between shooting a series in Australia and New Zealand.

Tell me about your role on Dead Lucky, what is your character like, and are you similar?

I play Bo-Lin Tan a Chinese international student who is a talented Violinist and aspiring musician. She’s adventurous, free-spirited and isn’t afraid to stand up to injustice and take matters into her own hands. I think we’re both incredibly cheeky and can make light of any situation. Other than that, she’s way cooler than me.

How did you get cast? What was the audition process like?

I was in Sydney on another project (The Letdown) and was tossing up between going home a week earlier or to stay. When I wrapped the project, the Dead Lucky audition came up (my first audition in an Australian casting studio!) and they recommended that I should stay in case I got a callback. If I left to come home that week, things would have turned out very differently!

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Yoson An, fellow Kiwi on Dead Lucky, talks about his character, Charlie Fung, being a refreshing, multi-dimensional Asian role. Did you feel the same way about Bo-Lin?

When I read the brief, it sounded like the typical Asian girl, wanting to play music but her strict parents won’t let her. But then, reading the script I instantly fell in love with the character because it wasn't just her wanting to follow those dreams - her deciding to come to Australia was about a desire for freedom. Her having a boyfriend, of a different culture, the way they speak to each other about each other and their future, that added more layers and made her more human.

Your character is an immigrant to Australia, recently becoming a contentious topic over the election. What was it like being in those shoes?

I think it’s important to tell those stories; to be honest everyone is an immigrant from somewhere. They all have a unique story to tell of where they came from, why they chose that country, and what they see for their future. They all have reasons why they had to leave, and what that place means to them; with the likes of my family, my Dad didn’t have a choice to come here, whereas my mum did. But again, it’s those stories of sacrifice, sacrificing everything they knew and had to have a better tomorrow, and then there are people, locals who will say “why are you here?” and question them. It’s like, you didn’t leave everything behind so that you could get bullied in a new country. You want to start afresh and you want to become a part of a community that wants you.

What’s surprised you or what have your learnt on Dead Lucky?

Straight off the bat, I have no special skills other than acting. My character, Bo-Lin is the super cool Asian your mum would compare you to growing up. I had to learn to swim (in the ocean), play the Violin, speak Mandarin and have an authentic Chinese accent. I worked closely with Mojean Aria (plays Mani, Bo-Lin’s boyfriend), who won the Heath Ledger Scholarship this year. I never met him at the callback stage, so he was the biggest surprise. I have so much respect and admiration for this guy, because not only did we form this naturally strong connection, but he also developed into a mentor-like figure for me. Working with him in rehearsals and on set was both a challenge (in the best way possible) and a dream.

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How do you approach acting a love story with an person you’ve only just met?

We understood that, yes the show follows the two detectives (Yoson and Rachel) solving this crime, but the crux of the whole series is the love that these two characters have for each other. We knew that if we didn’t work on it and the chemistry wasn't right, the whole story would fall over. When we started to shoot, majority of the time we only got two takes max for every scene, so we both decided that we needed to rehearse off set and know exactly what we’re doing before we got on set.

I think being emotionally open and finding things you genuinely love about another person’s soul is the best way to act like you’re in love. That way you don’t need to force yourself to love them or act at all infact, you just do and that’s one less thing to worry about.

What’s been the most fun shoot day you’ve had so far on Dead Lucky?

The nature of the show rides on relatively high stakes so the whole shooting process was a lot of fun. One scene that will always stick with me is when Bo-Lin and Mani (Mojean’s character) get into a very heated argument. Without giving too much away, the scene is a pivotal point in the story shifting the mood for the rest of the series. I remember I was so in Bo-Lin’s headspace, that when they called ‘cut!’ I just crumbled to my knees and wanted to cry. I was emotionally exhausted. I know - very dramatic. But that’s how much emotional and mental energy it should take to truly be immersed in someone else’s world.

Who are your heroes on screen?

Growing up I watched a lot of Hong Kong TVB Dramas. Journey to the West 1996 version with Dicky Cheung and Wayne Lai are still my favourite actors of all time. I love Sandra Oh, Adelaide Kane, Viola Davis. All incredible, smart and strong humans.

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Xana on Matariki (top left), Friday Night Bites (right) and Filthy Rich. 

Xana on Matariki (top left), Friday Night Bites (right) and Filthy Rich. 

Do you find the Australian screen industry much different to New Zealand, and if so what are the main differences? Do you think there are more opportunities for non-white or Asian representation in Australia compared to New Zealand?

Hands down - New Zealand productions have a better biscuit/snack station than Australian productions. I know that’s irrelevant but I just needed to get that off my chest.

Australia is a much bigger country that has more money to fund projects, and I feel that means they have more creatives to generate original content than in New Zealand. They have the supply for the demand. As far as Asian representation goes, I think when New Zealand thinks of ‘diversity’ they mainly show white and Maori and/or Pasifika. When Australia thinks ‘diversity’ they show white and Asian.

What’s the funniest or worst casting brief you’ve gotten this year?

I’m very fortunate that I get to audition for a range of different roles and not get boxed into any stereotypes. I think it helps that I look 15 but can also play a 25 year old. The funniest casting brief I got was “Hot Asian Girl”, I’m not sure how the States define ‘hot’ or if they have a scale to measure the hotness, but I ticked the other two boxes.

What would you like to see more of on New Zealand screens?

Original stories that include multicultural and multi-dimensional characters. Completely flawed characters that have a need to make the world a better place for themselves or for others. I think that’s what we’re all trying to do, it’s human, it’s interesting and it’s so relatable.

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What were the barriers you faced in becoming an actor?

The biggest barrier will always be the one I put in front of myself. It’s a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy. I think all actors would have gone through a similar process when they get a chance to audition for something, and they start doubting their capabilities to become this character before they even get in the room. I’m still learning to tell those thoughts to take a back seat and I’m getting better at it. If you don’t believe in your own potential, then why would anyone else?

Has race played a role in your acting career so far?

It hasn’t been a ‘thing that I play’ or that I got cast because I was from a certain cultural background, it was always “and you just happen to be Asian” end of story. It was only recently on Dead Lucky that I got to explore what it meant to be from a certain culture, embrace it and fearlessly bring that into the character and story.



Photos by Jen Huang.

Check out our interview with Yoson An, Kiwi actor who plays Charlie Fung on Dead Lucky, here.




 

Dead Lucky - Kiwi actor Yoson An talks about his role on a new SBS series and sharing the screen with Rachel Griffiths

"I believe filmmakers and storytellers have the power to either unite or divide humanity, and we need to be aware of that."

Yoson is fast becoming Aotearoa's next big thing.

Calm, collected but fiercely driven, Chinese-Kiwi Yoson An has been acting since 2012 and already has an impressive list of credits to his name. Locally, you might know him from Flat 3,  Mega Time Squad and cult classic Ghost Bride. A skilled martial artist and speaker of Cantonese and Mandarin, Yoson's natural charm on camera has landed him roles on international features Meg, Mortal Engines, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2 and the HBO Asia mini-series Grace.

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Speaking with him about his career so far, what is most remarkable is that Yoson has consistently broken the tired stereotypes that Asian actors are often cast in, having the chance instead to play leading romantic roles, action heroes and nuanced characters that are far from the nerdy, one dimensional tropes, something he focuses on when writing and directing his own film projects, as well as curating his new media site for short films called 'SkyRise', something the driven actor works on when he's not on set.

Yoson recently landed a leading role, Charlie Fung, in the new SBS crime-thriller series Dead Lucky, acting alongside Rachel Griffiths. After arriving back in Auckland from the shoot in Sydney, Chye-Ling, co-founder of PAT, caught up with Yoson about the experience.

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Firstly, congratulations on shooting Dead Lucky! Tell us about the series.

DEAD LUCKY is a gripping crime thriller told from multiple perspectives. Detective Grace Gibbs (Rachel Griffiths) is obsessed with catching the armed robber who killed her junior officer. Charlie Fung (Yoson An) her new trainee, blames Grace for the death of his best friend.

Meanwhile a share house of international students think that they have found paradise, until one of their housemates disappears. A couple of greedy convenience store owners resort to deadly measures to defend their business. While on the outskirts of the city, a violent fugitive is hiding.

Over one week, the paths of these characters collide, leaving Grace and Charlie to find the killer, the missing girl ... and a way to rebuild their lives.

What was the casting brief for Charlie Fung - did it specify race?

Yes, they specifically wanted a Chinese male. SBS shows are quite consistently multi-culturally accurate in terms of casting, I believe they accurately represent Australia on screen.

Yoson and the cast of HBO's 'Grace'

Yoson and the cast of HBO's 'Grace'

How did you get the role - what was the audition process like?

It was through a self-tape audition. I sent the tape, they liked what I did and booked me (with no call back - which was extremely lucky and unusual at the same time).

What surprised you about working with Rachel Griffiths and the team on Dead Lucky?

I don’t think I was surprised about anything because I went in with no expectations. I really enjoyed working with Rachel, and the whole team was amazing. Rachel and I got along quite well - I think she’s an awesome person. It was a real honour for me to be co-starring with an academy award nominated actress; being around her and observing her process has taught me so much, and have also inspired me to go deeper into the craft. She was also really generous with providing me with some constructive guidance every now and again on set.

What’s been the most fun shoot day you’ve had so far?

This entire shoot has been a dream come true. The cast was stellar and the crew was amazing. Unfortunately, I can’t disclose the plot too much.. But one of the most memorable days of filming was when Rachel and I did our big confrontational scene (of the show) on the rooftop - it really reflected the depth of Charlie as well as Grace (Rachel’s character).

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Do you find the Australian screen industry much different to New Zealand, and if so what are the main differences? Do you think there are more opportunities for non-white or Asian representation in Australia compared to New Zealand?

In terms of cultural diversity (accuracy) on screen, I feel like Australia has more opportunities for non-white actors to break into the film industry than we do in New Zealand (since they’re constantly making new shows - creating more content than NZ). In saying that though, I also believe Australia has a lot more actors in general than we do in New Zealand. I was lucky to be involved in a SBS original series; they’re known for having accurate multicultural representation of Australia on screen.

Yoson on set of Dead Lucky - wearing Rory McCann's (The Hound in Game of Thrones) jacket to keep warm

Yoson on set of Dead Lucky - wearing Rory McCann's (The Hound in Game of Thrones) jacket to keep warm

As an actor I’m aware of the amount of auditions you have to go through before you book a role. Previous to this role, what kind of casting briefs were you getting through, and from what countries?

I’ve been quite fortunate with my auditions. There have been a few stereotypical Asian characters, but a lot of my briefs have been from US productions and most of the characters’ personalities have been quite multi-layered.  

What would you like to see more of on New Zealand screens?

More original content and a more truthful representation of multi-cultural casting to reflect the real world (if the story is based in our geographical reality).

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What were the barriers you faced in becoming an actor and a filmmaker?

I’m a big believer/experiencer of “what you put out, is what you get back”. The only barriers I’ve faced were the barriers I’ve imposed on myself. In my experience, this goes for anything and everything in life. Our personal beliefs can either accelerate us or hold us back. There have been many times where I’ve felt anxious on going into an audition or taking on a role (which may be seemingly too big - there’s really no such thing), but I’ve realised it always stems from a lack of self-worth. So I consciously do my best to let go of limiting beliefs that doesn’t serve me.

Charlie Fung is part of the new wave of POC characters breaking away from screen based stereotypes. Do you feel a certain pressure taking on this role?

I’ve certainly felt a pressure to do the best I can for this role - but it was more from the fact that the script itself is so amazing, and the cast members are all so talented, I just really wanted to do the best I can for the series. I was really excited about playing Charlie because he had so many layers to him; it definitely penetrated much deeper than the usual Asian stereotype - that’s also one of the reasons why I absolutely loved about being a part of this show.

Yoson on the set of 'Asian Men Talk About Sex'

Yoson on the set of 'Asian Men Talk About Sex'

What role do you see yourself playing in changing the way that Asian men are perceived on and off the screen?

I don’t have a particular plan as to how I can change the way Asian men are perceived, but I’d like to be of service by being the most truthful version of myself and create from that space. I feel like film and TV is a beautiful medium that can inspire and influence us to gain a deeper perspective of our surroundings. If ideas and cultures are represented falsely on screen - this may influence a false reality into viewer’s mind and create an illusion of separation in our world. I believe filmmakers and storytellers have the power to either unite or divide humanity, and we need to be aware of that.

In Asian Men Talk About Sex (a Loading Docs documentary), you speak candidly about sex from an Asian male perspective. What makes a good date, and have you been on any good ones lately?

A good date to me is when two people are attracted to each other (in whatever way they wish to define attraction), and at the same time, both totally comfortable with each other (where they can just fully be themselves). Unfortunately, I haven’t been on any lately..I’ve been too busy!

Check out Yoson in Asian Men Talk About Sex here

Photos by Jen Huang. 

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Throwback post: Why I wrote 'Call of the sparrows'

Last year saw the first PAT original being staged at The Herald Theatre in Auckland, Call of the Sparrows, written by Chye-Ling Huang and directed by James Roque.

A cast of 6 Asian NZders brought this epic tale to life. Check out this sweet piece in Metro about how it came to be!

 

Why I wrote Call of the Sparrows

by Metro and Chye-Ling Huang / 12 October, 2016

Proudly Asian Theatre, a new theatre company dedicated to giving a voice to Asian theatre artists in New Zealand, debuts its first original production at Herald Theatre this week. Call of the Sparrows blends shadow play, masks and interactive performance to create an ethereal world like no other. Its writer (and Proudly Asian Theatre co-founder and actor) Chye-Ling Huang, describes the inspiration for the play in her own words.

Chye-Ling (left) with her sister, Chye-Mei.

Chye-Ling (left) with her sister, Chye-Mei.


This is a photo of me in Malaysia when I was about 11 (on the left with the bumbag). I was born and raised in Auckland on the North Shore. My mum is from Christchurch, with Irish roots, my Dad is Chinese, born and raised in Malaysia. Travelling there for the first time was a life-changing experience. As one of four matching, adorable, mixed-race daughters, we were doted on like crazy and given the best that Kuala Lumpur had to offer. The sights, sounds and smells were nothing short of otherworldly - spiky durians being hacked open, raucous mahjong games til dawn, temples rising up into the sky.

I became obsessed with the stories of our Chinese family. My Dad grew up in KL, but I later learned my Kong Kong had fled his village in Southern China after the communists came through in 1949. The details are hazy. There was the story of Kong Kong’s first wife who died suddenly, a voodoo doll found under her mattress. The evil auntie, who ended up saving Kong Kong from execution, my Ah Ma, who would swear and argue for hours at people who weren’t there. Under the giddy influence of childhood, my Chinese history became a folklore, a collection of mythologies, and it’s only now that I’m starting to unravel the truth behind them all.

James Roque and Chye-Ling Huang, co-founders of PAT, graduating acting school

James Roque and Chye-Ling Huang, co-founders of PAT, graduating acting school

This is James Roque (left). James and I were the two Asian kids in our class at Unitec, where we trained as actors (and graduated as wizards). We started up Proudly Asian Theatre (then Pretty Asian Theatre) in 2013 as a reaction to the despondency we felt at the lack of Asian representation in theatre and film in New Zealand. It was a blessing having someone else sharing a Kiwi-Asian experience as an actor, let alone someone I actually could jam with creatively who was a pretty cool human. Without James’ support and friendship this wouldn't have been impossible.

This is PAT’s first original show. James is Filipino-Kiwi, I’m Chinese-Pakeha, and one thing we had in common was that the superstitions and stories of our Asian families were impossible, theatrical and spoke to a deep-seated need for meaning and connection. This play is a way for me to explore that world and begin to understand the humanity in the folklore. It’s also a way of reconciling my own beliefs, from a New Zealand lens looking back at pieces of my Chinese culture I was never happy to identify myself with, and the things I remembered vividly from the stories I was told. It’s about the messiness of identity, what we hold on to and what we would rather forget.
 

Call of the Sparrows rehearsal. 

Call of the Sparrows rehearsal. 

I’m still figuring out the kind of stories I want to tell, but this one feels like one I know deep in my bones. There’s something childlike in the imaginative world of this piece that has let us run wild with its theatrical presentation, and I’m immensely proud of the fact that we’ve put five Asian performers, mostly women, front and centre, with Asian creatives in the key roles. Whatever happens, we are getting the chance to do something big and challenging created by us, for us, and for me that is everything.

 

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"I guess that's why love is so alluring, because we believe in it even when it seems like the odds are not in its favour." - Nathan Joe, playwright of Losing Face

"What lengths do people go to save face, and how important is it?"

Award-winning playwright Nathan Joe takes some time out from his busy schedule to chat with PAT’s producer, Kelly Gilbride about love, writing for theatre and the first play he ever wrote, Losing Face. Losing Face will be making its debut this Wednesday 13 September at The Basement Theatre at 8.30pm! For more information visit our Facebook page.

Fun fact about Nathan - he is also one of eight leading men in Asian Men Talk About Sex - an intimate short documentary created by Proudly Asian Theatre and Loading Docs. Watch it here!

Playwright Nathan Joe.

Playwright Nathan Joe.

Kelly: This is the first play you ever wrote and you really took the plunge into quite an epic and sad love story. Was there anything specific, an event, a train of thought, that drove you to write Losing Face?

Nathan: Anyone familiar with gay relationship dynamics will tell you the younger Asian male and older white male is a notable one. It's a pairing that is also easy to be a bit cynical about too. One that I know people can often look down on and even sometimes scorn. So, then, it seemed natural to try and resist the impulse to judge and write something from the perspective of understanding.

Kelly: You’ve presented a relationship that is complex in more ways than one and that seems to be affected by some major external forces - different races, a wide age gap, the coming out of an older widowed man, societal norm. Can you speak to this - do you see these forces as barriers? What are you exploring with this relationship?

Nathan: Prejudice is at the heart of the play. Whether it's to do with race or age or what is simply expected of you. But I'm also interested in how prejudice can bring people together, as well as tear them apart. The notion of face is important here too. The idea of preserving your name or your social status. What lengths do people go to save face and how important is it?

Kelly: It seems rare to to see a play that explores an interracial relationship. How much do you think race plays a factor when choosing a sexual partner?

Nathan: I don't want to make too many bold claims, but race definitely has a major effect on how we judge or perceive potential sexual partners. Just like anything else. Admittedly this can be unconscious, but it's usually unconscious because it's a bias that has been left unchallenged.

Nathan Joe in Asian Men Talk About Sex, a 3 minute documentary

Nathan Joe in Asian Men Talk About Sex, a 3 minute documentary

If you believe the personal is the political, then it should naturally extend to the bedroom too. That's not to say you should feel obligated to have sex with every race. That's silly. But if you have an aversion to any particular race then that definitely says a lot about you.

Kelly: Do you believe that love can transcend against even the greatest odds?

Nathan: Oh God. I don't know. I don't know. I'd like to think so. But I guess that's why love is so alluring, because we believe in it even when it seems like the odds are not in its favour.

Sorry if that doesn't answer your question.

Kelly: What do you hope audiences will take away or learn from Losing Face?

Nathan: Just leaving with a greater sense of empathy for the characters and people in general.

Kelly: What is the driving force behind your writing?

Nathan: Curiosity - if I can understand what makes a character tick that's really satisfying. And exploring the notion of right versus right. Where nobody is necessarily in the wrong. Where everyone has their reasons.

Nathan's play 'Like Sex' explored the dynamics of teenage sex and was staged earlier this year

Nathan's play 'Like Sex' explored the dynamics of teenage sex and was staged earlier this year

Kelly: What do you find most frustrating about the theatre you see staged in Auckland?

Nathan: Lack of scope or ambition can be frustrating. But that's less about the makers and more about a lack of resources. Also I feel that we don't have a strong culture of really nurturing directors. Luckily we have plenty of talented actors who are willing to rise to the challenge.

Kelly: What are the most exciting things you’re seeing in theatre and film at the moment?

Nathan: Julia Croft's If There's No Dancing at the Revolution, Then I'm Not Coming. I saw it for the second time just to take some friends. But I didn't expect to love it even more on the rewatch. Victor Rodger's Ranterstantrum felt vital to me too. The stakes and tension felt very real. Very pertinent. And so so so angry. A necessary anger.

And I'm not seeing it till this Friday, but I'm incredibly excited for Alice Canton's OTHER [chinese].

Kelly: What advice would you give to first time playwrights?

Nathan: Read and see a lot of plays.










 

"To have conversations about sex, you need to be both vulnerable and open." Chye-Ling gets down to the nitty gritty with Tearaway

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Tearaway Mag's Nidha Khan got the down-low on the discoveries, surprises and embarrassing moments director Chye-Ling Huang had whilst making Asian Men Talk About Sex.

Read is below or check it out on tearaway here

 

DIRECTOR CHYE-LING HUANG: BEING TRUTHFUL TO ASIAN STORIES

SEPTEMBER 11, 2017

By NIDHA KHAN

James, Han and Yoson share their experiences

James, Han and Yoson share their experiences

Your task: Name at least 10 current mainstream Asian film or T.V. characters who aren’t the “nerdy best friend, silent kung-fu master, tech whiz in the office.”

Struggling?

It’s probably because there aren’t that many.

Now, given the growing online buzz around ‘representation’ and how it affects different ethnic communities, the next logical questions to ask are: How does this depiction of Asian men filter down into the everyday lives of young Asian men? And if sex, love, and dating are “universal human experiences, where is the real talk when it comes to Asian men?” These are the questions which director Chye-Ling Huang seeks to answer in her recent short film, Asian Men Talk About Sex, where eight Asian men speak candidly about love, sex, and dating in NZ.

Being able to represent Asian stories in really truthful ways and against stereotypes is a cause that Huang actively fights for through the theatre she co-founded in 2013 – and still runs – called Proudly Asian Theatre. But, this year, she decided to also venture into filmmaking as part of the Loading Docs initiative. In her film, she focuses solely on the experiences of Asian men since there aren’t any or enough of them in NZ media. There’s a need to create narratives which aren’t de-sexualising or emasculating, but just showcase a bunch of everyday, regular Asian guys, because that’s what they deserve.

James Roque is one of the 8 Asian men in the film.

James Roque is one of the 8 Asian men in the film.

 

It’s been a hard conversation to begin in NZ since we’re pretty stifled in our emotions. Huang’s found that people don’t tend to think about the current links between race, love, dating, and sex if they aren’t affected, and that men in particular don’t open up and talk to each other. Even when she’s spoken to her male Asian friends, they’ve never considered it. Mainly, it’s because they don’t want to. They’re forced to live with these stereotypes all the time and it’s not an area they enjoy delving into.

“It’s the classic NZ thing that we aren’t very open. It’s definitely a part of the NZ cultural soup that makes us feel shameful to talk about anything in the open. We don’t celebrate openness, we celebrate stoicism and a quiet confidence, like the All Blacks. Being vulnerable and open is not something NZ is very good at and of course, to have conversations about sex, you need to be both vulnerable and open.” – Chye Ling Huang

Han Huang, an immigrant from Malaysia, features in the doco

Han Huang, an immigrant from Malaysia, features in the doco

When she first began creating the film, the reaction from the people around her was “really mixed.” It took people a while to wrap their heads around it and they generally went through phases of shock, then surprise, and then curiosity. But, overall, it’s opened up a lot of dialogue for the people in her life. Even a month before the film’s release, people would approach her with various questions: Why are you making this? What’s the film really about? What are these concepts?

Being able to create these open conversations, spaces, and communities is what Huang’s found rewarding and enlightening. She feels that she’s gained a better understanding about the nuances of what it’s like to be an Asian guy in NZ, male sexuality in general, how different it is for men and women in terms of learning about sex, and the filmmaking process.

“There’s a lot of insidious things that happen that are really subtle, which I think is today’s brand of racism in NZ. The way that racism presents itself now is a lot of micro-aggressions… Some men would also say things like, “I would be swiping on Tinder and I would be like, she’s white, she’d be too pretty for me.” That level of internal racism towards yourself and your own culture was really interesting and something I wasn’t expecting.”  Chey-Ling Huang

The conversations around porn were also really interesting. Every person she interviewed talked about learning sex through porn and how damaging it was for them. Every single person brought it up, but Huang never instigated the discussion, it just came up organically. It’s definitely made her question whether she agrees with porn any more and how problematic it is that it’s become more socially acceptable for young men to watch it and that it’s a lot more damaging at a younger age than most people expect.

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In terms of learning about filmmaking, she was able to find both commonalities and points of difference between the theatre. For example, the theatre is an “extremely visual medium” which she thought lent itself well behind the camera, you’re basically creating stories from images. But, in the theatre, you’re limited to time, space, and the physical world. If you want to create something different, you need to be really inventive with the way you use your body and create the energy in the room. In film, you can literally do anything. “You can have unicorns flying through the screen and then you’re suddenly underground. It’s quite limitless.”

Having gone through this experience, her advice for other newbies is that “if you’re thinking about getting into it, just do it, because it’s not as scary and hard as you think it is. Coming from a theatre background, I was ready to be overwhelmed by all the technical stuff and ready to be put in a lot of hard work to catch up in that area. But, if you have a team around you that kind of knows what they are doing or at least have some ideas, it becomes easy and do-able.”

Huang’s next move is to have her film garner as many views as possible across NZ and the rest of the world. She feels that the more successful the film is, the more it proves that POC (people of colour) stories should be up on our screens; that they’re worth putting money into. But she’s clear that it isn’t just up to filmmakers like her. You and the rest of the public can do something by raising your voices and supporting POC narratives by simply sharing, liking, and commenting on social media and “giving the higher powers the stats they need to justify putting money into POC stories.” We are long overdue for both interesting and diverse POC stories on a mainstream level, so let’s do this!

 

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"...laughs, near tears and realizations happening all around the room." New Blood launch!

TVNZ launched their New Blood talent development web series last week, and The Han Chronicles is one of the exciting new shorts on offer. 

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Made with TVNZ's development lab, Chye-Ling Huang (PAT co-founder) had the idea of sharing her Dad's unique immigration stories in a way that was fresh, fun and relatable.

With regards to the go-to immigrant story, Chye-Ling wanted to veer away from the norm. "My Dad's story is so similar to many other Chinese or Asian immigrant stories - the loneliness and hardship of coming to a new country alone was definitely a huge part of his journey. In Christchurch in the 70's many people had never seen an Asian guy in real life, but he was accepted by an amazing group of friends whom he shared lifelong bonds with."

With influences from director Calvin Sang, Huang's series are a mix between Comedy Central's 'Drunk History' with the 70's styling of 'Everybody hates Chris'. She said, "I wanted to focus on something different with this webseries - my Dad is a really positive, colourful character, so it made sense to highlight the wild and funny experiences he had."

Read about the launch below, and watch the two episode pilot here:

Watch both episodes on TVNZ on demand: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/the-han-chronicles

Youtube:

Episode 1 - Duck: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3_Yh2uUWsM&t=6s
 

Episode 2 - Glenda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3_Yh2uUWsM

 

TVNZ launches New Blood, gets experimental with short-form content

By Erin McKenzie

This week, TVNZ’s New Blood initiative went live, as more than 20 pieces of short-form content found a home on TVNZ.co.nz, YouTube and Facebook.

The pieces are a result of a collaboration of local talent—including producers, directors, writers, filmmakers, comedians, and actor—some of whom are new and emerging, and to celebrate they gathered over a few beers and pizza at Brother’s Brewery on Monday to watch previews of the content. There were laughs, near tears and realisations happening around the room—and that’s exactly what TVNZ was hoping for.

TVNZ’s digital commissioner, Amie Mills, says it wanted to create content that is different, provocative and champions diversity—through a range of voices, ethnicities, genders, sexuality, beliefs—as well as authenticity.

Han Huang stars in The Han Chronicles.

Han Huang stars in The Han Chronicles.

“New Blood is TVNZ’s way of reaching viewers who might not be engaging with our content like they used to," she says.

The newly launched titles include 30 days (a one-off sketch where an office worker has an existential crisis trying to remember the date by Simon Ward), The Han Chronicles (a two-part true story of an Asian man assimilating into life in New Zealand in the 1970s by Chye-Ling Huang ) and Girl Interrupted - The Masty  (a sketch series about women dealing with first-world problems by Jessica Joy Wood and Kura Forrester).

Covering so many topics, New Blood is also about experimenting with distribution methods and being specific and considerate about where content lives. While web series have been a popular result of the internet's many distribution platforms, that format can be constraining so the decision was made to widen the scope around how stories can be made. There's one-off comedy sketches, documentaries, two-part stories, stand-up specials and comedy web series.

“What makes this work exciting is that content formats are defined by the story being told, rather than having to stick to a particular format. We’re looking forward to seeing how our viewers react and engage with the work as it will inform what we create in the next phase of production,” says Mills.

An example of its willingness to enter new territory is, Re:, an alternative socially-driven news brand launched under the New Blood initiative. It’s been making a home for itself on social news feeds for nine weeks now, but at the launch event on Monday, Tasha Impey, who’s at the helm of Re:,introduced it and explained that its name, in a longer sense, means “relate, represent, responsibility, react, reach and respond to issues that affect young New Zealanders”.

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Each week sees a new issue tackled and so far it's covered sexual health, drugs, suicide, immigration and education.

So far, those choices have proven popular, as Re:'s content has reached 8.6 million news feeds in its first eight weeks, as well as achieving 3.2 million social video views. Impey was also proud of the 1.8 million minutes that have been viewed, showing that people are watching the videos in their entirety, not just continuing to scroll after a few seconds.

The content is also averaging 120,000 engagements per week including likes, shares and comments.

While the Re: team is currently made up of TVNZ staff, it's building a contributor model that will open it up for emerging talent who have unique stories to tell.  

And there's plenty out there if the New Blood web series competition is anything to go by. It saw 150 submissions of pilot episodes for potential web series. Funded by NZ On Air, it asked for Kiwis to vote for their favourite pilot to be made into a full web-series.

It was Ashleigh Reid and Isla Macleod who won, with their Oddly Even series receiving 24 percent of the final vote. It will be available on tvnz.co.nz later this year.

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New web series by Chye-Ling, Calvin and TVNZ!

The Han Chronicles is here!

TVNZ presents a 2 part web series pilot about a young Chinese immigrant arriving in Christchurch in the 70's, created by Chye-Ling Huang and directed by Calvin Sang. 

Created using her own Dad's true stories, we follow Han Huang on his journey of making friends, getting in trouble, falling in love and cooking a mean duck soup, all with a 70's twist!

"And that was our inception into New Zealand lore." - Han Huang

Jarrod Lee as Han Huang in The Han Chronicles.

Jarrod Lee as Han Huang in The Han Chronicles.

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Brian Choi and Genevieve Kent in The Han Chronicles.

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"Talking about sex on camera isn’t easy, but imagine interviewing your dad about it." Show me Shorts feature!

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We are stoked that Asian Men Talk About Sex, our 3 minute doco, was chosen as one of Show me Shorts favourite Loading Doc's films!

Here's what they said:

 

KIWI DOCUMENTARIES: LOCKED AND LOADED

CLAYTON BARNETT

on August 30, 2017 at 1:45 pm

The Loading Docs initiative produces ten short (3-minute) New Zealand documentaries each year. They’ve just unveiled the new films, and our team at Show Me Shorts is super impressed with the boldness and diversity.

I’ve picked my three favourites of this year’s crop for you here. Funny, moving and joyous, these shorts introduce us to real New Zealanders with something to say about culture, conservation, connection, sex, death, fear and hope.

Calvin Sang shoots Yoson An shooting hoops.

Calvin Sang shoots Yoson An shooting hoops.

Talking about sex on camera isn’t easy, but imagine interviewing your dad about it. Director Chye-Ling Huang had a frank conversation with hers – on the culturally taboo subject of sex. The result is a cracking short full of sparkling energy and wry humour.

All eight men interviewed in Asian Men Talk About Sex provide candid and often hilarious answers to questions about Asian stereotypes in film, TV and real life.

Old and young, straight and gay, they quickly dispel notions of themselves as a homogenous group of sexless math-whizzes with small… um, equipment.

Director Huang is a co-founder of the the Proudly Asian Theatre company. Her first documentary is well-handled, bold and consistently entertaining. We look forward to more.

Check out the full article here:

http://www.showmeshorts.co.nz/kiwi-documentaries-locked-and-loaded/

 

 

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"We just went for it." The Wireless interview

The wireless caught up with Calvin Sang, DOP and Editor, and Chye-Ling Huang, director, of our new 3 minute documentary!

Asian Men Talk About Sex has been released as part of Loading Docs - a launchpad for short New Zealand documentaries. Watch it here!

The Wireless: DIRECTOR INTERVIEW with Chye-Ling Huang

by Chev Hasset

When did you start getting involved with film?

I run a theatre company called Proudly Asian Theatre. I started off as actor when I did a Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts at Unitec, and the comedian James Roque was in my class. We were the only Asians and we were facing our final year at Unitec.

We were freaking out that there was not much hope for us with representation in the industry. So we started Proudly Asian Theatre, which basically tells Asian stories in the New Zealand landscape, providing positive, truthful and interesting representations for Asian stories.

Huang embarks on her film directing debut with Asian Men Talk About Sex

Huang embarks on her film directing debut with Asian Men Talk About Sex

How did the doc come about?

Loading Docs came along as an opportunity when someone said to us this year’s theme is diversity. Even though diversity is kind of a dirty word these days, I think it has opened up a lot of doors even if it is problematic at times.

We just went for it. We sat down as a group and asked what was missing in film and television especially New Zealand. We were looking at how you can count on one hand the Asian men we saw on TV. So we decided to come up with something that talked about the demasculinisation and desexualisation of Asian men. We wanted to do it simple and truthful; hopefully something incredibly real and readily accessible for everyday people.

How did you find interviews?

I definitely learnt a lot about sex. I consider myself a super sexual and liberal person. I guess I learnt about the world of sex; it is so layered and nuance, there are so many factors. Interviewing ten guys -eight of them will be in the Loading Docs version - listening to their conversations raised a whole bunch of questions.

Chye-Ling Huang interviews Aram for Asian Men Talk About Sex

Chye-Ling Huang interviews Aram for Asian Men Talk About Sex

Lastly, does this film help change the stereotype of Asian men?

I really hope so. This is what the film is kind of about. It has two points: opening a conversation about sex and also debunking a lot of those stereotypes which is truthful. These guys are everyday dudes and I really hope it does change people's’ perceptions about Asian men.

 

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Stuff: Why these Asian men really want to talk about sex

Woo hoo! We've reached over 3000 views on our short and sweet doco this week - Asian Men Talk About Sex!

Stuff.co.nz chatted to Calvin Sang, DOP and editor, and Chye-Ling Huang, director, about how getting all the Asian men we knew into one room and opening up a conversation about sex got the ball rolling into a bombastic new film.

Check it out here! 

 

Or check out excerpts below:

Why these Asian men really want to talk about sex 

GLENN MCCONNELL

When an email lands offering the chance to interview Asian men about sex, you can't say no. This initial thought is this could be hilarious.

It isn't really that funny, though. There are laughs, but the documentary Asian Men Talk About Sex has a serious core.

It all stated as a potluck dinner party, where the subject of conversation was sex. Chye-Ling Huan, a Chinese-Pākeha director, had pulled together all the Asian men she knew to get their thoughts on sex.

Yoson An, Han Huang and James Roque talk sex

Yoson An, Han Huang and James Roque talk sex

Her dad was there, sitting next to her friends from drama school, and she passed round a basket filled with questions about sex.

"It was surprisingly not that awkward when we got everyone in the room," she said. The gathering was literally every Asian man Huang could find. At the table, crunching down on a broccoli sesame seed salad, fried rice and a pile of other foods, was one of the most diverse groups you could find.

James Roque (centre) sits next to Chye-Ling Huang's father during the dinner party that started it all.

Gay Asian men, fathers and a Singaporean man who had made it past his half century sat talking with a cast of creative types to keep the conversation following. "That was the first time I'd ever talked to my dad about sex," Huang recalled.

Huang held the gathering because she believed there was a serious problem in the media, where Asian men were severely desexualised. 

"When you are desexualising someone, you're dehumanising them too because you're putting them in a box," she explained.

The documentary Asian Men Talk About Sex features the stories of a diverse cast of Asian men living in Auckland.

She teamed up with editor Calvin Sang to create a short documentary featuring interviews with Asian men wanting to talk about sex.

Kelly Gilbride, Calvin Sang and Chye-Ling Huang at the launch of the Loading Docs films for 2017

Kelly Gilbride, Calvin Sang and Chye-Ling Huang at the launch of the Loading Docs films for 2017

 

The men featured opened up about having sex in a portaloo. Huang's father told her about having sex against a wall to keep the door closed.

Their film was aimed to combat the traditional representations of Asian men by showing a diverse cast talking about sex, Huang said.

Chye-Ling Huang invites all the people she can find to kick-start a discussion about the sexual representations of Asian men.

As a young actor starting out, Huang said she looked around the industry and saw only stereotypes. She co-founded the Proudly Asian Theatre Company with comedian James Roque to foster acts that went against that tide.

"We realised if we didn't create our own work then we weren't going to have work because we're Asian actors," she said.

Their latest documentary, the company's first stab at film, was about showing accurate portrayals of Asian men and sex. "That's not what we see a lot, we see a lot of caricatures and stereotypes," she said.

Sang, a filmmaker of Chinese descent, said it was inexcusable for New Zealand to be showing the same stereotypes as the rest of the world - especially as there was such a strong Asian community here.

"Shortland St, where are all the Asians? How many Asians are in real life hospitals versus how white Shortland Stis," he asked.

Trying to list Asian men in the media, Sang came up with comedian Raybon Kan and "the spray and walk away guy". 

The documentary team spent 45 minutes interviewing each Asian man willing to tell his story.

He said the under representation was bad enough, as it created a sense that the Asian community didn't contribute to New Zealand. The problem compounded, Sang said, when Asian actors managed to get a role that was stereotypical and often harmful.

"The common stereotype I hear a lot of is that Asian dudes are quite nerdy, they spend a lot of their time at gaming cafes," musician Tristan Hemi Colenso explained in the film.

"All the stereotypes I encounter as an Asian guy are things like I am sexually or romantically inept," Roque continued. 

Asian Men Talk About Sex was published as part of the Loading Docs project, and received $4000 of funding while raising about $2000 of its own funding. The crew behind the short film said they hoped to create an extended play, or series, based of the many interviews they filmed.

 

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BFM interview with James Roque and Chye-Ling Huang

We talk to BFM to talk about the launch of Asian Men Talk About Sex, PAT and Loading doc's brand new doco.

James Roque, one of the stars of Asian Men Talk About Sex

James Roque, one of the stars of Asian Men Talk About Sex

Directed by Chye-Ling and starring James, co-founders of Proudly Asian Theatre, hear them spill the beans on this cheeky little film here!

Fun fact - James Park and Tristan Hemi are both musicians that are regularly played on bfm - James of Miss June fame and Tristan as the bassist in Clap Clap Riot.

Check out the doco itself here: https://vimeo.com/229068040

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Asian Men Talk About Sex is LIVE! Plus interview with VICE

Our mini dodo made with Loading docs is LIVE online for the world to see!

Check out our interview with VICE New Zealand to hear what director Chye-Ling Huang had to say about the ideas behind this confronting, funny and insightful short film.

 

In her first documentary, Chye-Ling Huang flips the script on that sexless, nerdy stereotype.

by Hussein Moses, VICE NZ

Western culture has forever stereotyped Asian men as somehow not masculine. Over and over again, we are fed clichés that Asian males are sexless and nerdy types who are underrepresented in sports because they're athletically inferior. As VICELAND host Eddie Huang put it: "We count good, we bow well, we are technologically proficient, we're naturally subordinate, our male anatomy is the size of a thumb drive, and we could never in a thousand millenniums be a threat to steal your girl."

In New Zealand, a new documentary Asian Men Talk About Sex is out to challenge those bullshit stereotypes. The short film, which is part of this year's Loading Docs initiative, shows that there's another side to Asian men, says director Chye-Ling Huang. They're sexy, but they've always been sidelined; in reality, Asian men deserve the spotlight just like anyone else.

The documentary is Huang's first foray into filmmaking—until now, she's been known for her writing and acting work in the local theatre scene—and the new direction came about after feeling dissatisfied with the status quo for such a long time. "Directing and writing is a way to create the kind of work that I want to see," she tells VICE. We sat down with her to find out more.

From left: Ruby, Chye-Ling, Kelly and Calvin at the premiere screening of Asian Men Talk About Sex for Loading Docs

From left: Ruby, Chye-Ling, Kelly and Calvin at the premiere screening of Asian Men Talk About Sex for Loading Docs

VICE: The documentary is called Asian Men Talk About Sex , which isn't something we usually see in mainstream media. Why do you think that is? 
Chye-Ling Huang: From a media perspective, I think it's such a chicken and egg situation at the moment where it's like there aren't enough people in those positions of power that are Asian men or Asian creators of content. And if you do get those chances, how likely is it that you want to rock the boat? We don't have the same number of people represented in the media because we've never been given those chances. So how are you going to get to that level? There are no bankable Asian actors for ATC (Auckland Theatre Company) shows, for example, or in other forms of media because we're not giving them those opportunities to grow and to learn and to train.

There's heaps to unpack, obviously. Did you want to explore stereotypes in the film or is it more about shining a light on the untold experiences of Asian men?
I didn't really know, to be honest. For me, I love talking about and unpacking the dynamics of race and how that has a direct impact on my life and my humanity. It's so cerebral when you start talking about all this kind of stuff, but then when it comes down to your daily experiences, that's when it becomes really interesting. When it's like, this is actually how it emotionally affects me as a human, or in my interactions in life or a job or whatever.

 

What's beautiful about it is that sex is such a universal experience and that the joys and the awkwardness and the discoveries and the heartbreaks of sex are so human. Hearing the conversation without knowing that everyone's an Asian dude in the room, you could mistake it for anyone talking about sex. But then there are definitely layers to that, which are very uniquely Asian, that come directly from the traumas and expectations and stereotypes that are layered upon this really beautiful human experience of sex, which sucks.

How much of a role do you think race plays when it comes to sex and dating?
I think race plays a really big factor when it comes to sex and dating. The whole reason I got really interested in this was two things: I'm all about representation of Asians in media and I'm really fucking sick of seeing people in my life, who are Asian men that I love so much, being represented as bumbling idiots on the screen. The other thing is, personally from a female perspective—obviously I'm not an Asian man, but I have dated Asian men—a couple of years ago I started deconstructing my own racial and sexual prejudice and realised that it is a thing. So it's kind of that double-edged sword where you start reflecting on yourself and you're like "wow, Asian women are so sexualised and then you start looking out and you go wow, Asian men are so desexualised".

 

Kelly Gilbride and Chye-Ling Huang on the set of an interview

Kelly Gilbride and Chye-Ling Huang on the set of an interview

Did you always have it in mind to keep the focus solely on men in the documentary?
I think it's two different stories when it comes to the Asian experience of sex. Asian women are the most sexualised race, whereas Asian men are the lowest on the food chain when it comes to being sexualised or being chosen as sexual or romantic partners. So yeah, it's two really different conversations. Also, there's a three-minute deadline for Loading Docs, which is very daunting. I'd love to make another one with Asian women. I think the stories would be completely different. You've got so many different layers of misogyny and sexism that are all wrapped up in that as well. It's such a huge conversation and it deserves its own thing.

 

Was there a question you set out to answer when you began making the documentary?
Not really. I think for me, what I really wanted to achieve was truthful representation of Asian men on screen. Also, I really hoped that what we would find would be something really casually mind-blowing in the fact that the sheer truth of these men's stories would speak volumes to the opposite end of the spectrum of representation. I think I just really wanted people to see Asian men as they really are.

Everyone has sex. Everyone has a sex drive—most people; some people are asexual. It's a human thing and we shouldn't be ashamed of it. That's the whole point of this documentary. We shouldn't be ashamed of talking about sex. As well as debunking myths around Asian males, I think that as New Zealanders as a culture, we're so prudish when it comes to talking about sex.

 

Nathan Joe, participant in Asian Men Talk About Sex

Nathan Joe, participant in Asian Men Talk About Sex

Were there any common themes that emerged from the conversations you filmed?
One common theme that I never asked a direct question about was porn. Every single person talked about porn. Generally the way people learned about sex was like, sex education in school and porn. The sex education was a day or two, which taught them nothing, and then porn taught them everything about attitudes, how-tos, and dynamics between men and women. Just horrendous shit that they then had to unlearn. That was definitely a really common theme for most of the guys.

 

What sort of things do you think need to change for us to move forward?
I think the funding bodies that fund film and television and theatre in New Zealand are definitely upping their games in recent years. There's things like the Diversity Project Fund and there's different kinds of quotas with the Film Commission that are quite focused towards Māori, Pacific, Asian, and non-white stories. I think that's a huge step in the right direction. I think there can always be more that's done. It's all about media: personal attitudes aren't going to change unless media is reflecting it. It's a chicken and egg situation again. It needs to become "hot" before people want to do it, want to make it, and want to see it. But then it's like, no one's going to think it's hot unless it's being made, so we need more development programmes to develop Asian and non-white practitioners in film and television: writers, directors, producers, everything.

The tide is turning for sure. The more America changes, the more we get excited about it and want to do it too. Which isn't a bad thing. It's annoying, but it's not a bad thing. But that's what needs to happen, I suppose. It's so basic: we already know that Asian men have been here since 1842, and we know that Asian immigrants are coming over all the time. Regardless of how long someone's been here, they should be treated the same. We know that. It's a basic human decency. But when you see an Asian man walk across the street, or you see an Asian man pull out of a park in a bad way, your gut reaction or your internalised racism is always going to be the first thing that comes out. Unless people are having these conversations and actually going deep with it and seeing positive examples to shove all that shit to the side, it's not going to change.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Follow Hussein on Twitter.

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Laughing at ourselves: Sam Wang talks to PAT about his latest play

"I saw a soup being made. That’s right, I saw a moment of fire in each and every one of you. And we are going build that fire. We’re going to build that fire and we’re going to cook that soup and we are going to serve that soup."

 

Sam Wang

Sam Wang

Playwright and actor Sam Wang spoke to PAT's Chye-Ling Huang about his latest play, Asian Arts Engagement Crew. Referencing TV's 'Community', this social satire plays with race, 'diversity' and the sincerity and motives behind inclusion. 

 

CL: What was the inspiration behind writing AAEC?

SAM: For a while, I’ve been wanting to write a contemporary sit-com about a bunch of eccentrics trying to run their own online “let’s change the world” kind of organisation. It felt very now and very this generation. Then I met a wonderful group of Asian Australian actors and artists last year and that’s when I thought, maybe I could put an Asian / arts related spin on this idea and perhaps even ask some of them to be in it. 

CL: Is it based on real life incidents at all?

SAM: Sort of, although I think a lot of the characters and their perspectives are based on exaggerated versions of my alter-egos rather than real life. I’m a little cautious about using real life sources as AAEC pretty much tries to take the piss out of everyone and everything so it’s much safer to stick with make believe.

CL: What are you hoping the audience will take away from watching AAEC?

SAM: On one level, all I really want is for the audience to have a really good time during the show and laugh a lot…I’m pretty cheap like that. If both Asian and non-Asian audiences laugh at the same Asian jokes in AAEC, then I think I’ve done my job. That said, I do hope that some also go away thinking that it was clever and has a bit of heart to it. I guess my entire philosophy is that sometimes we can afford to take ourselves a little less seriously and have a laugh at ourselves. Hopefully AAEC makes them feel a little bit of that too.

The cast and director of Asian Arts Engagement Crew playreading.

The cast and director of Asian Arts Engagement Crew playreading.

CL: There seems to be a growing awareness of 'diversity' in the arts recently. What are your views on 'engaging Asians in the arts'?

SAM: It’s funny because a lot of my views about engaging Asians in the arts come from engaging with my parents. They’re 60, from mainland China, have math and science backgrounds and moved to Australia in the early nineties. Consequentially, I think a lot of my views on the subject are skewed towards the cynical side of the spectrum. That said, my dad is now probably one of my biggest fans, partly because I’m an only child so he doesn’t have any other horses to back – thanks Chairman Mao. I guess what I’m trying to say is that at least for my parent’s generation, sometimes you can’t engage them in the arts. It’ll simply be forced upon them when one of their kids decides to run off with the circus. And looking around me, there are definitely more and more of us so times are definitely changing.  

CL: What would you like to see change in the industry right now?

SAM: I’m really hoping there’ll be a time when the emphasis is less on “Asian works” and more on “works with Asians in it” or any other currently under-represented demographic of people. Some of my favourite shows like Community, Silicon Valley, The Thick of It etc. aren’t about “white people” even though they predominately feature white people. They’re about people trying to survive the world’s worst community college ever or beating Google at their own game or managing a government’s PR nightmare in a world of spin. Pretty cool, right? It would be pretty amazing when there are more works about Asians doing those kind of things (or insert any other under-represented demographic).     

CL: Do you always write comedy?

SAM: It’s definitely my default starting position and I currently don’t feel a huge urge to venture too far away from it. I like rom-com, that has moments of seriousness in it right?

CL: Have you always made your own works?

SAM: Trying to, mainly so I can get away with just being myself and not having to do any “acting”.

CL: What else are you working on?

SAM: A Chinese spy comedy and an extended version of the AAEC. The concept for AAEC was that it would be a TV pilot adapted for the stage. I guess now I have to write the entire first season (deep breathe)…my next episode ideas are Asian Keyboard Warriors & Asians Lost in Space.

CL: What's your favourite play?

SAM: Pretty much anything by Robert Lepage and Martin McDonagh.

 

Asian Arts Engagement Crew is part of Fresh off the Page, PAT's monthly playreadings.

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