One On One With Award-Winning Actor & Filmmaker Maria Tran

Maria Tran is an award-winning US-based, Vietnamese-Australian actor, filmmaker, and martial artist working across film & TV, stage & performance, and fight action choreography. She is the founder of female-led Phoenix Eye Films (In the US and Australia).

Her international film credits include “Fist of the Dragon,” “Death Mist,” and “Tracer/Truy Sat.” In 2013, she won the Breakout Female Performer award at the International Action on Film Festival, and in 2016, she was awarded Female Action Performer of the Year at MartialCon. She is also the director and producer of “Hit Girls,” a female-led action comedy. In Australia, she has appeared on several TV shows, including “My Place,” “Maximum Choppage,” “Street Smart” and “Fat Pizza.”

Maria has also worked as a stunt performer in movies such as Jackie Chan’s “Bleeding Steel” and “MEG” in New Zealand. In 2022, five months after moving to the United States, she landed her breakthrough role as Madame Tien on the 10-episode crime drama Paramount series “Last King of the Cross” starring Tim Roth.

Maria has also been involved in stage productions, including as a fight director and performer for Bell Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and her own theater production “Action Star,” which premiered at the OzAsia Festival in Adelaide in 2022. She has received the prestigious $50,000 Create NSW Western Sydney Arts Fellowship award and established Phoenix Eye Films, a female-led film and art collective based in Western Sydney.

Maria is also known for her documentary filmmaking work, including “Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta” and “My Mother, The Action Star,” which won the award for Best Film at the WIFT-V Fest Film Festival. Occasionally, she works as an action fight director for films such as “Ayotti” and “Terror Zone.” Her feature action thriller ‘Echo 8’; Australia’s first female-led action movie, has currently won several awards, including the Tokyo Film Awards for Best Film, Winner for Best Feature Film – Women’s Film at the World Carnival-Singapore Film Festival and will be scheduled for a screening at the Art Gallery of NSW this year. Maria is a trailblazer known for her community, cultural, and development practices in the film, TV, and entertainment industry.

FilmCentral Magazine recently caught up with Maria to discuss her journey in the film industry, and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us more about yourself?

I’m a triple threat; an award-winning actor, producer, and director working across film & TV, stage & performance, & fight action choreography. I’m the founder of female-led Phoenix Eye Films (AUS & US) and co-facilitator of Acting for Mindfulness (AFM).

How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

I started on an independent Kung Fu comedy titled “Maximum Choppage” around 20 years ago while studying for a Bachelor of Psychology. I would dabble in a range of creative arts projects that put me both in front and behind the camera, and my transition into my first job was as a Youth Digital Cultures Coordinator and Information & Cultural Exchange (ICE), where I led the development and implementation of screen cultures across Western Sydney’s culturally diverse.

What do you like most about acting?

Acting is a tool of empowerment for the individual self as we strive to explore our body, voice, and imagination. I’m very fascinated by human psychology, the choices people from diverse walks of life make, and the opportunity to embark on the creative process of developing a character, bringing it to life on stage or screen and exploring new stories and worlds. It is also a form of self-expression, a way to communicate emotions, ideas, and perspectives to people around us. As an actor, I can bring joy and entertainment to others. On stage and screen, I love the challenge and reward of taking on new characters and taking them on a journey that impacts the audiences that view them.

How different is it to act in a movie and to act in a TV series? And which one do you prefer?

Both movies and TV series offer unique and rewarding experiences for actors. The choice between the two depends on the project; the role offered, and the actor’s personal preferences and goals. Movies tend to have shorter and more intense shooting schedules that are more immersive, and I get a chance to really dive into their characters and the story. TV series, on the other hand, often have a more extended production schedule and a more serialized format. This allows for deeper character development and more opportunities for actors to explore different aspects of their characters over time.

What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?

My conventional trajectory as an actor originated in creating my independent films over the past 15 years. It has its benefits of wearing multiple hats of director, producer, fight action choreography, etc. however, when I transition into mainstream films and television, I tend to be hyperaware of the film production set. Sometimes I enjoy immersing myself and appreciating the other roles that make a film set seamless that I forget that I should only be fulfilling the role as a performer. Also, because I’ve had no formal training and am self-taught, I find it challenging to explain how I get into character, and other actors might find me professionally unrelatable. Ways that I’ve tried to improve this to reverse engineer the field of acting practices, study different techniques, and merge acting into psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience. Ultimately, the key to improving as an actor is a combination of hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn and grow continuously. Actors who are open to feedback, willing to take risks, and committed to their craft often make the greatest progress and achieve the most success.

What are your strong points as an actor?

Authenticity, depth, and nuance to performances and creating a connection with the audience. I thrive on connecting with my characters on a deep emotional level. Years of training in martial arts and movement have allowed me the physicality, being able to use my body to bring the characters to life. Having a vivid imagination and strong collaboration skills is, perhaps, my biggest asset as an actor. I don’t believe in minor roles. Every role an actor breathes life into is a chance for audiences to be moved by something new.

What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

I’ve worked with many amazing directors, including Antony Szeto (‘Fist of the Dragon,’ ‘Death Mist’), Jane Eakin (‘Street Smart’), Karen Therese (‘Action Star’), Kieran Darcy Smith (‘Last King of the Cross’), Adrian Castro (‘Tiger Cops’) and I have also turned into one myself, and I’ve learned that they have varied styles, but all have a clear vision. They know how and what scenes look, sound, and feel. I’ve learned to be able to interpret this for my own performances. Directors offer character insight, motivations, and relationships with other characters. technical aspects of filmmaking, such as lighting, sound, camera angles, and editing. Directing is a collaborative process, and directors work closely with actors, writers, and other members of the production team to bring their vision to life

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?

Many actors compete for a limited number of roles, and the competition can be intense. Actors may face a lot of rejection before finding success. Actors need to have thick skin and handle disappointment and setbacks. You may also face stereotypes and typecast based on your looks, accent, or previous roles. Internal challenges include facing insecurities and self-doubt, as the craft is a personal and vulnerable process. In addition, acting is a volatile and unpredictable career with the instability of constantly moving from one project to another, which can be frustrating to someone who can’t handle the constant change.

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?

The production process can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more for a small, low-budget film. This can include pre-production activities such as writing the script, securing funding, casting actors, and scouting locations, as well as production activities such as filming and post-production activities such as editing and sound design. Making an independent film is often a long and challenging process that requires patience, persistence, and a deep passion for filmmaking.

What do you do when you’re not filming?

I stay relatively busy maintaining my creative skills such as self-study, networking, self-care, getting involved in other people’s projects, and travelling between my two residencies, Australia and the United States. Going on road trips with my husband/ creative partner is something I look forward to in my downtime and spending time with my family.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

I’ve had an incredible unconventional journey so far as a performer and filmmaker. I’ve been able to work with the impressive Jackie Chan on “Bleeding Steel” and can world premiere my theatre production “Action Star” at the OzAsia Festival. A defining moment is completing Australia’s first female-led independent action movie, “Echo 8,” on such a tight budget. And now, moving to the United States and landing a major role in the upcoming series “Last King of the Cross” has been an enormous accomplishment.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

Jackie Chan, Nancy Valentine Smith, and Tim Roth.

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

I see the rest of my career trajectory as becoming the next generation of low-budget independent filmmaker ‘slashies’ that will garner the attention of the mainstream. Eventually, I’ll be able to sustain myself in the industry through the creative endeavours I choose. Since the release of ‘Echo 8’ and its positive reception, I’m currently working with screenwriter Elizabeth H. Vu in penning together the next two movie cinematic universe installments of ‘ Echo 8 Beyond’ and ‘Five By Five’ to be shot back-to-back in 2025. I aim to build a strong reputation around this, the female action forte that will make me and my film colleagues stand out internationally. I also hope to diversify my range of projects in different genres and styles to showcase my versatility, collaborate with filmmakers in the United States, build networks, gain new skills and experiences, and adapt to new technologies and market trends.

Make Way For AACTAs 2022 On The Cover Of The February 2023 Issue Of FilmCentral Magazine

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The AACTA Awards (formerly the AFI Awards) has honoured screen excellence in Australia since the first AFI Awards were held in 1958.

Held annually in Sydney in recognition and celebration of Australia’s highest achievements in film and television, the AACTA Awards present over 55 awards across two major ceremonies.

The peer-assessed AACTA Awards are the only Australian industry body to honour practitioners across all crafts and industry sectors, including feature film, documentary, short film, television, online, visual effects, and animation.

The Awards have grown to become a world-class marker of screen excellence alongside the Oscars® and the BAFTAs. Many of Australia’s most iconic and successful screen talent, both in front of and behind the camera – from actors such as Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Deborah Mailman, and Hugo Weaving, to directors such as Bruce Beresford, Gillian Armstrong, Dr. George Miller, and Warwick Thornton, to craftspeople such as Jill Bilcock, Catherine Martin and John Seale – have come through the ranks and been recognised among their peers at the AFI and AACTA Awards before going on to achieve international accolades and become household names.

Sonia Kruger, Mark Coles Smith, and the cast of Heartbreak High were among the stars to walk the carpet at the star-studded ceremony last year as the industry came together to honour Australia’s best and brightest screen talent.

Elvis and Mystery Road: Origin led the winners at the 2022 AACTA Awards Ceremony. Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis was the biggest winner of the night, taking home four additional Awards, including the coveted award for Best Film, Best Direction in Film presented by Filmology Finance (Baz Luhrmann), Best Lead Actor (Austin Butler), and Best Supporting Actress in Film (Olivia DeJonge). Elvis dominated the AACTA Industry Awards with 7 wins, bringing the total AACTA Award count to 11.

In television, Mystery Road: Origin received an additional 3 AACTA Awards, including Best Drama Series, as well as Best Lead Actor (Mark Coles Smith) and Actress (Tuuli Narkle) in a Drama presented by Foxtel. After receiving 4 AACTA Awards during the Industry Awards, Mystery Road: Origin lead the TV Award categories with a total of 7 AACTA Awards.

Another big winner was internet-sensation Heartbreak High. The teen drama swept all 3 of their eligible public-voted Audience Choice Award categories, including Best TV Show, Best Actor (Bryn Chapman), and Best Actress (Chloe Hayden). The Audience Choice Awards continued with Kat Clark crowned Best Digital Creator and Abbie Chatfield given the title of Australia’s Best TV Personality.

Chris Hemsworth was the recipient of the Trailblazer Award. The AACTA Trailblazer Award highlights the achievements, abilities, and success of an Australian screen practitioner who inspires others in the industry. Hemsworth was honoured for his outstanding career and contribution to the Australian screen industry as one of the most famous residents of the NSW North Coast; Hemsworth has used his position and status to attract global productions to Australia, creating jobs and opportunities for hundreds of local screen practitioners and championing the Australian film industry.

Local artists launch web series on youth mental health

Canberrans will be the first to enjoy a sneak preview of an award-winning Canberra web series on youth mental health when it launches at the National Film and Sound Archives on 23 February.

Fragments thrust viewers into the world of eight teenagers navigating anxiety, depression, bullying, family dysfunction, gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia, neurodivergence, and more. Written by Maura Pierlot, the series aims to encourage candid discussions about mental health and well-being, chip away at the stigma, and encourage young people to check in with each other on a regular basis.

Supported by the ACT Government through artsACT, Fragments was awarded the Best TV/Web Series and Best Screenplay awards (Canberra category) at the 2022 Canberra Short Film Festival.

Pierlot, who is also Executive Producer, believes there is still work to do. “We’re getting better at talking about mental health and wellbeing, but there’s often a disconnect between words and action,” she said.

“I sometimes worry that we’re talking about the need to talk about mental health without really tackling the nitty-gritty issues. Fragments aim to help bridge that gap.”

The 8-episode web series will be launched by ACT Arts Minister, Tara Cheyne. The free event includes a film screening, followed by a Q&A with the Fragments production team. Award-winning documentary director-producer and Canberran, Michael Lawrence-Taylor, will emcee the event.

Producer Dan Sanguineti, who was a 2022 Finalist in the ACT Chief Minister’s Inclusion Awards for his work supporting Canberra filmmakers, devised an ambitious production approach to bring Fragments to life on the screen, involving many talents that showcase the diversity of Canberra’s film community.

“We selected eight different Canberra film creatives, each directing an episode,” said Sanguineti. “Coupled with eight young performers, each director brought their own visual style and experience to the project.”

The Fragments web series is adapted from Pierlot’s stage play of the same name, which enjoyed a sell-out debut season at The Street Theatre in 2019 and was published in script format in 2021 by Big Ideas Press. Boasting new material, the second edition of the book will be available at the launch, ahead of its 1 March release.

Praised as brilliant and riveting, the novel is aimed at high school students but is also an eye-opening read for families and carers.

For Pierlot, the six-year Fragments journey has inspired changes in herself, her art practice, and her personal and professional goals.

“Like the characters in Fragments, I’ve had to dig deep to adapt, transform and stay connected, while carving a path forward in an ever-changing world,” Pierlot said.

Sanguineti agrees, citing the biggest challenges to bringing the web series to screens, “Producing with eight different styles and approaches was a mammoth challenge, particularly as we started pre-production just before Canberra’s last pandemic lockdown, which added complexities to getting the episodes shot. However, the finished series shows how rewarding it can be as a producer to see the successes when an entire team comes together.”

Fragments is written and executive produced by Maura Pierlot. It is produced by Dan Sanguineti. The Production Designer is John Silvestro and the Director of Photography is Miguel Gallagher. The episodes were directed by Joshua Koske, Carl Emmerson, Matthew J. Thompson, Julia Faragher, Declan Shrubb, Denai Gracie, Anthea Staats, and Shelly Higgs. The series cast includes performances by Tom Bryson, Linda Chen, Ankush Khanchi, Jade Breen, Rahel Alemseged, Brendan Kelly, Erin Pierlot, and Zane Menegazzo.

You can view the trailer here:  Fragments

The launch is 6 pm for a 7 pm screening. Register to attend via Eventbrite 

Meet The Rising Star Behind The November 2022 Issue Of FilmCentral Magazine: Vanessa Madrid

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Vanessa Madrid is an actor and stuntwoman with a Bachelor of International Development Studies from the Australian Catholic University. She’s recently wrapped in multiple feature films, including the lead role in the psychological thriller ‘Mercy of Others,’ a supporting role in ‘Lickerish,’ and dual roles in the horror film ‘After She Died,’ where she showcased what a chameleon she can be. In 2021, Vanessa appeared in the second season of the Stan original series Bump,’ and the short film Wrath,’ which is a finalist in many festivals worldwide. She has appeared in several TVCs as both an actor and stunt double, and she recently wrote/directed/starred in her own short film ‘Survival of the Fittest.’ Vanessa has had the pleasure of working on two different docu-series, ‘Deadly Women’ and ‘The Invisibles,’ and is currently working on the Australian TV series ‘Pervert’ in a lead role. Later this year, Vanessa will be playing a lead role in an action drama feature film ‘Syndicate. ‘ Just recently, Vanessa played dual roles in After She Died – she played Isabel and Florence. This role earned her the “Best Australian Feature Performance” at the A Night of Horror International Film Festival.

We sat down and talked movies with Vanessa, and here’s what he had to say:

What do you like most about acting?

I love acting because of your connection with others on set and with the audience. When I’m acting, it’s truly a spiritual experience for me because I cannot be more present. I can work for hours on end, and it feels like a click of a finger for me. When I’m on set, I do not act, I become that character, and I get to feel those feelings and emotions that my character goes through during her journey, which is my ultimate spiritual experience and connection.

Can you tell us about your role in After She Died?

Yes, so I actually played dual roles in After She Died. I play Isabel, whose in her 40s and is a mother. She is close to her daughter, very nurturing, and a good wife; however, she’s gotten to a point in her marriage where it has gotten complicated, but they still love each other and know no different. Unfortunately, Isabel suddenly passes away, and soon after, Florence appears, who I play as well, and she’s basically been brought back to life from Isobel’s body. Florence has some faint recollections from her previous life, but she’s really learning everything from scratch again.

What sort of person is going to relate this character?

I think all the mothers out there and all the people that want to be parents will connect with Isabel. However, I think people will have a lot harder time connecting with Florence. Florence is a very complex individual because of what happened to her.

How is this character like you? Different?

Isabel is similar in the way that she’s very loving, nurturing, and protective. She is also quite the firecracker like me. I guess it’s the Hispanic in both of us (laughs). She’s different because she’s much older than I am and has a child.

It was a little harder to connect with Florence, but we share the same curiosity. When I’m more in my child self, and I’m more playful then I guess I find similarities. Florence is very different to me because she lacks empathy and is quite still. I’m extremely empathetic to the point that I even get sympathy pains!

Besides yourself, what celebrity would you like to see tackle this character?

I would love to see Toni Collette’s tackle these roles as she’s one of my favourite Australian actresses, and it would be really interesting to see her take it.

Besides yourself, which actor/s in this film is going to blow people away?

Well, this is a bit unfair because obviously everyone is amazing, but I think the audience will love Jen, played by Liliana De La Rose, and John, played by Paul Talbot.

What’s the biggest challenge to taking on this role?

The biggest challenge was trying to get into the mindset of Florence and trying not to react to Jen and my husband, who are freaking out and heartbroken. However, once I found Florence, it was easy to go into that character and her mindset.

If you could play any other character in this film, who would it be?

Maybe the sheep man because it would be so fun to dress up and freak people out (laughs)!

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

The most memorable would have to be the After She Died premier because that was my first film premiere as a lead in a feature film. It was very exciting as well as taking home the award for best performance on the night of the horror international film festival.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

Everyone is interesting in their own way, but I have to say I definitely had a Fan girl moment when I got to meet Claudia Karvan on the Stan show Bump. She is one of my favourite Australian actresses up there was Toni Collette. It was nothing but a dream to be working on her show and then going to the Bump premier and her saying, “oh my god, you came,” with a big hug. That really took me back because I just love and respect her so much.

How active are you on social media?

This answer would’ve been very different a year ago as I took a two or three-year break from social media. I just wanted to focus on myself and protect my privacy. After countless chats from family and friends telling me that I had to “get back out there” and that social media is the way, I finally came back on, and I’ve been pretty active. You can find me on VanessaAMadrid on Instagram. I’m trying to be more active and share my experiences with my friends.

I have also made a Tiktok which has a couple of silly videos, there is nothing too serious on there, but it’s just a bit of fun! If you message me on Facebook, I probably won’t see it for three months because I don’t really look at it very often, so I’m sorry if I have ignored anyone out there.

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

Future plans… hmmm, lots of travelling and hopefully lots of working on set. My partner and I are trying to figure out if we should move overseas or move to Queensland or stay in Sydney, so to be honest, I’m not 100% sure where I will end up, but I know that we will be travelling. I’ve also signed up with a new agent, so I hope to level up in my career and get more work.

Disney has just released the final installment of its annual Christmas campaign, ‘​From Our Family To Yours’

Disney has today released the third and final installment of its annual Christmas campaign, ‘​From Our Family To Yours,’ on Disney+ in support of long-term charity partner Make-A-Wish®.Named “The Gift,” the new animated short continues the story of a blended family as they prepare for the festive period and the exciting arrival of a new baby.The touching short tells the powerful story of sibling relationships and aims to celebrate family togetherness, inspire storytelling and encourage much-needed donations, in support of Disney’s longstanding global charity partner, Make-A-Wish®.Following previous years’ tradition, this year’s short once again sees a Make-A-Wish child’s wish come true. Seven year old Amelia, from Perth, Western Australia, had a dream to meet Mickey Mouse and give him a high five and a hug. Amelia’s wish not only came true, but as a nod to her love of Mickey, Disney placed seven ‘Hidden Mickeys’ throughout the animation including her favourite Mickey glow-in-the-dark soft toy, a pillowcase, pancakes and a Mickey bauble from This year, in further support of Make-A-Wish Australia, Disney fans will be able to purchase a very special Christmas gift from – the Mickey & Minnie 2022 Sketchbook will donate 30% of the purchase price (excl GST) of every Mickey & Minnie 2022 Sketchbook Ornament sold on the site between November 7, 2022 – December 31, 2022 to Make-A-Wish®, helping provide much-needed funds to deliver joy and inspiration to children facing serious illness.The festive glass ornament features a decoratively dressed Mickey and Minnie singing carols in the snow under a candy-cane coloured streetlamp. The ornament hangs from a beautiful red ribbon bow.Make-A-Wish Australia CEO Sally Bateman said: “We are so pleased to again be the beneficiaries of Disney’s wonderful ‘From our Family to Yours’ campaign which this year features Australian wish child Amelia. All of us have the power to make wishes come true for critically ill children and we are enormously grateful to Disney for their incredible support of our programs in Australia.”The Gift” makes its streaming debut tonight, Friday November 4, on Disney+ in Australia. The Mickey & Minnie 2022 Sketchbook Ornament benefitting Make-A-Wish goes on sale on from Monday November 7, 2022.

Actor Spotlight: One On One With Yuan Lin Of Malibu Crush

Can you tell us more about yourself?

I am a model; also an actress. I was born in China, lived in Australia, and am now based in Paris.

How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

It has been my dream since I was a kid; the universe led me this way, and I feel this is in my blood.

What do you like most about acting?

To experience other peoples’ lives, to understand the world from a different angle. Life is all about experiencing.

How different is it to act in a movie and to act in a TV series? And which one do you prefer?

More flexibility and more space for creation for actors in films. I prefer films to TV series.

What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?

Sometimes I needed to be more confident to be 100% natural and overcome my fear in front of the camera.

In order to improve that, I will have to build my self-concept and pretend there is no camera at all or any audience. I mean, nothing will happen, right?

What are your strong points as an actor?

My emotions. And my willingness to show them off to the whole world. That’s the way how I connect to the world. I believe all humans are “All-in-one.”

What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

James is brilliant, and he has impeccable interpersonal skills. He has influenced me by nature of friendly and obliging and his presentation in the “Malibu crush” film production.

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?

Ethnicity barriers for Asian actors.

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?

To develop a deeper understanding of roles more than just the surface level. For example, the culture and history context, and psychological background, hence I need to read a lot. Acting is more challenging than it seems.

What do you do when you’re not filming?

Self-development and creation. I am learning different knowledge. Modelling, Writing, doing sports, and having a good heart for life.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

My MESSIKA campaign in 2021 was the first time I did a global campaign; the designer was fantastic. I love her.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

A lot. There isn’t a specific person I can point out.

If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?

Someone as tough and as persistent as me – someone who was even beaten to rock bottom but still can come back stronger.

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

I would continue my modeling and acting career, of course, but meanwhile, I would like to become a writer.

Is there is anything else interesting you can tell us?

I cook well and hide my secret recipe somewhere nobody can guess.

Rising Star Spotlight: Introducing Corinne Furman

Corinne Furman’s first ever film has just been released in over 600 cinemas across the UK and Ireland. She plays the part of ‘Paige’ in ‘Fisherman’s Friends: One and All’; a ditsy reality star who has just been signed to a record deal. She got to work alongside amazing actors, such as James Purefoy, Maggie Steed, David Hayman, and Imelda May. Following that, she played the leading role of ‘Hope’ in ‘The Hunting of the Snark,’ a feature film directed by Simon Da Vison, alongside Ramon Tikaram. This will be released in the next few months. She also played ‘Maya’ in ‘Rebel Cheer Squad – A Get Even Series’ (Get Even 2), the BBC/Netflix series directed by Nigel Douglas, which is available on Netflix worldwide.

FilmCentral magazine recently caught up with Corinne to discuss her journey in the industry, and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us more about yourself? 

My name is Corinne Furman, and I am an actress. I trained from a very young age in dance but fell in love with acting as soon as I started to take acting classes. I was raised in a very animal-orientated family and have travelled worldwide to see incredible wildlife. I absolutely love animals, so I have always been vegetarian (never ever eaten meat), and I am now vegan. My family and friends are very important to me, but my two dogs insist they are the most important!

How did you get started in the entertainment industry? 

I started to dance at three years old, and it was always what I enjoyed most. When I was older, I was at dance class nearly every day of the week after school. I then joined a performing arts school when I was nine, and they started showing me the other avenues of the industry (acting/singing). I started taking acting classes every week and absolutely fell in love with it. I realised quickly that I much preferred acting to dancing. The school also had an agency attached, and I started to audition for a few little acting roles. My first ever acting job was a ‘New York Bagels’ advert when I was ten years old, and I remember saying to my mum after that day that acting is what I wanted to do forever.

What do you like most about acting? 

It’s not solely the acting I enjoy. The most exciting part for me is being on set – I love doing something different every day, meeting new people, seeing how everything comes together -knowing the months of hard work and preparation prior to filming. In terms of actual acting, I love being able to tell important stories. I think the art of acting is so freeing; you are taken into a place where you can express your emotions and life experiences, good or bad, and channel them into something beautiful. I think acting is so special, in the sense that even if you were doing the same scene, working with different actors would produce different work, as every actor will bring something different to the table.

What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them? 

My main weakness as an actor has been my dyslexia, which may mean I have more trouble initially understanding a script. However, I do believe it means I am a more creative person. I have a very photographic mind; I can see things being played out and the scene as a sort of choreography. I think dyslexia is something that should never hinder an actor but can be used to one’s advantage.

What are your strong points as an actor? 

My strong point as an actor is my determination and hard work. I am determined to create the life I want for myself and to be able to do what I love every day. I also believe I am very sociable and find it very easy to get on with most people. This means that I am comfortable working with a whole variety of people.

What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career? 

Even from a very young age, the directors I’ve worked with were so supportive and inspiring that they’ve reaffirmed to me time and time again that acting is what I want to do forever. I’ve always had the best time on set, and without such amazing directors, it may not have been clear that I wanted to continue on this path. They’ve each taught me different things, but as a collective, they’ve helped me learn always to trust my choices and decisions as an actor and believe in myself.

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business? 

The main difficulty is rejection. Also, the determination it takes to get where you want to be. What they say about it not being an easy industry is true, but I guess that’s why so many people give up. I refuse to do anything else; it’s all I think about pretty much every hour of every day – but it is hard sometimes to keep your spirits high, to keep motivated, and keep pushing for it when sometimes it may feel like you’re not getting anywhere with it. I think the times when you’re not working are also super difficult. It’s all I want to be doing.

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life? 

I think the most challenging part about bringing a script to life starts with the audition process. Each part within a script can be interpreted in so many ways that it is hard to know what the director/writer/producer has/had in mind. Due to covid, many first-round auditions start with a self-tape (a read-through of a certain scene, by video, done at home), which is then sent directly to the casting directors. Without being in the room with the option of someone asking you to play a part differently, it leaves only your interpretation which you hope hits the mark. I wish we could be given a few directions (play it more subtly, play it more over the top, etc.) which may make the process easier for an actor but obviously a lot longer for casting directors etc.!

What do you do when you’re not filming? 

I volunteer for a dog rescue charity in my spare time. They’re called ‘Hungary Hearts Dog Rescue’. We aim to find loving homes for abandoned and neglected dogs on death row in Hungary. We save the dogs from killing stations/the streets in Hungary and bring them to the UK to be homed. It can be heartbreaking at times to see the states that some of the dogs are found in, but it is so rewarding to see them go into their new homes and begin their new lives filled with love. I’ve met such great people along the way, and it’s such a beautiful thing to do. I have two lovely rescue dogs myself who take up a lot of my time, but I love every second I spend with them. They’re the best two little beings that ever came into my life.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far? 

Hands down, the most memorable and most special experience of my career so far has been attending the ‘Fisherman’s Friends: One and All’ premiere. Seeing myself on the big screen for the first time was so exciting – this was my first ever job after graduating from University, so it was always going to be a really special moment. Hopefully, the first of many more to come! It was great seeing all my fellow cast members again after so long, walking my first ever (little) red carpet, getting my pictures taken, etc. But also, to see the film in its entirety was so special. I felt the pure joy from everyone involved in creating the film throughout the whole cinema, and it made me feel so proud to be part of such an amazing production.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far? 

The person I’ve really connected with the most has been Ramon Tikaram, who is most known for his roles in ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Eastenders’. Ramon plays ‘Jez’ in ‘Fisherman’s Friends: One and All’. After ‘Fisherman’s Friends’, we worked on another film called ‘The Hunting of the Snark’. ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ is a Lewis Carroll poem and has been adapted into a film by the amazing director Simon Da Vison. It is to be released in the next few months. Ramon has such an incredible energy and talent. As it was my first job, he knew I’d feel a bit nervous, making me feel super comfortable and welcome. He clearly cares a lot about his fellow cast members and has a really big heart.

If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you? 

I would play me! The more acting jobs I can do, the happier I’ll be!

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

My full focus is on my acting; it’s what I want more than anything in life. I do have a couple of film roles in the pipeline. I want to continue learning, attend acting classes, and do anything I can to grow my craft and become the best actor I can be. I’d also love the opportunity to travel with work. Outside of my career, I want to continue to help to save as many dogs as possible.

If there is anything else or interesting you can tell us

During my time at University, I worked at a day centre for people who are homeless or vulnerably housed. I helped run various activities with their clients, including acting workshops. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I hope in the future, I can use my platform as an actress to help disadvantaged people. I want to help make a difference.

Film Spotlight: An Exclusive Look At “After She Died”

Photo Credit: Nicole Muñoz Ortiz

After She Died follows the story of Jen (Liliana de la Rosa). Jen’s mother has just died. Her relationship with her father, John (Paul Talbot), is fractured beyond repair. Her friends, all recent high school graduates, are moving on with their lives and leaving behind the small town they once called home. Jen is, in every sense of the word, alone. That is until John introduces Jen to his new girlfriend, Florence (Vanessa Madrid)… a woman who looks and sounds identical to Jen’s dead mother.

Jack Dignan is the writer, director, and producer of After She Died. Last year, he put together a team of eager up-and-coming filmmakers to work on this passion project. They made the film for scraps without studio backing or financial investors. Now the film has been sold in North America and will be released on September 30th.

Back in 2020, he was in talks with both local and international studios to get funding for the film. When COVID hit, everyone closed their wallets. Instead of letting this defeat Jack, he put together all his money, worked out how much more he’d need to make the movie and decided to go on and make it himself. There was no guaranteed sale, profit, or release. Still, with a script he was excited about and a talented group of cast and crew, including some of the team behind this year’s WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE and classics like FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 8 and MOULIN ROUGE, he was eager to get the film made.

They shot the film over 18 days, with an unfortunately timed 100+ day lockdown starting after shoot day 10, meaning the movie’s second half wasn’t shot until months after the first. But cut to 2022, and the film is done and ready for release. He’s extremely excited to share it with audiences everywhere and let the world experience their little horror movie for themselves. Internationally, the distribution is being handled by Good Deed Entertainment and Cranked Up Films. Australian distribution is yet to be confirmed.

FilmCentral Magazine recently caught up with Jack to discuss After She Died, and here’s what went down:

Who’s the director and producer of the film?

Jack Dignan – Writer / Director / Producer

After accelerating through high school and gaining early access to film school at the age of 16, Jack Dignan has established himself as a writer, director, and producer with a unique style and a fresh voice in genre filmmaking. His recent short films ‘It Feels Like Spring’ and ‘Does Nobody See the Gun?’ have gained global recognition on the festival circuit, with the former now available on ShortsTV and the latter on YouTube.

Jack began his career as a well-regarded Australian film journalist, publishing written reviews across multiple platforms while working on his own DIY short films. In the leadup to his feature-length directorial debut ‘After She Died’, Jack spent years working on high-profile Hollywood productions, such as ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’, ‘Furiosa’, ‘Elvis’, ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ and more. He’s collaborated and worked with numerous Oscar winners and brings that knowledge and experience into his own filmmaking career.

Rhys William Nicolson – Co-Producer / Cinematographer

Rhys William Nicolson is an award-winning Cinematographer, Director, and Producer. He’s worked throughout broadcast at ABC and Channel NINE, at multiple production houses, and throughout feature, commercial, and narrative productions. His true passion is in narrative and creative content as a Director and Cinematographer, with recent screenings at Flickerfest and St Kilda, as well as numerous commercial projects and productions. He’s also received several awards for his Directing of the Psychological Thriller Pseudomonas.’ He’s also recently produced award-winning Music Videos for Amy Shark, Blasterjaxx, and several others. Rhys considers himself a chameleon of the creative industry.

Most recently, he’s been an Executive Producer and 2nd Unit Director on the recently released feature, ‘Wyrmwood: Apocalypse’, released in cinemas Feb 2022, and was a Co-Producer and Cinematographer on ‘After She Died’. With Wyrmwood: Apocalypse and portions of After She Died having been filmed on location at Rhys’ family property, now converted from Orchard to backlot, he hopes to help facilitate future indie projects in a similar way and continue to shoot meaningful, impactful, and entertaining content. He’s most recently landed a producer role at the publisher, LADbible, hoping to perpetuate and create more meaningful content, focusing on spreading the stories and truth of marginalised individuals living in oppression. He’s also been working alongside several First Nation’s creatives on a new series focused on Indigenous-Australian mythology based in a post-modern setting, which has just been greenlit.

Who is your main cast?

Liliana de la Rosa – Jen

Liliana de la Rosa (credited in the movie as Liliana Ritchie) is an emerging Spanish Filipino-Australian Actress and Singer based in Sydney, Australia. She had her Professional Theatre debut in the Australian Play ‘Blue Murder’ (2018) after graduating High School on the Gold Coast, Queensland and was awarded the 71st Barbara Sisley Award in 2017 for receiving the highest Speech and Drama examination score with Trinity College London (AMEB). She recently starred as ‘Gloria’ in the 2022 Stage Play ‘Sex Shop,’ written and directed by Jake Moss at the Brisbane Arts Theatre, and featured as the Lead in Short Film ‘Dug Your Grave’ (2020), which was a part of the Sunshine Coast Screen Collective Film initiative with Screen QLD. She was the Lead in Television Mini-Series ‘Now More Than Ever,’ (2020) and has also wrapped as one of the lead Actor’s in Newcastle Indie Film ‘The Savvy Bedlam Boarding House’ produced by Ten Coat Productions.

She has trained professionally in the Performing Arts across multiple Australian Drama Schools since the age of 10 and is also currently working with world-renowned Actor and Coach Les Chantery, Casting Director and Mentor – Tom Mcsweeney, and with Anthony Meindl’s AMAW Sydney. She has skills across the board that include Singing, Writing, Directing, Photography, Track and Field, and a variety of other sports. Taping for Lead TV and Film roles across Australia and America, Liliana is an up-and-coming young Actress to definitely keep an eye out for.

Vanessa Madrid – Isabel / Florence

Vanessa Madrid is an actor and stunt woman with a Bachelor of International Development Studies from the Australian Catholic University. She’s recently wrapped on multiple feature films, including the lead role in the psychological thriller ‘Mercy of Others,’ a supporting role in ‘Lickerish,’ and dual roles in the horror film ‘After She Died,’ where she showcased what a chameleon she can be. In 2021, Vanessa appeared in the second season of the Stan original series ‘Bump,’ and the short film Wrath,’ which is a finalist in many festivals around the world. She’s appeared in several TVCs as both an actor and stunt double, and she recently wrote/directed/starred in her own short film ‘Survival of the Fittest.’ Vanessa has had the pleasure of working on two different docu-series, ‘Deadly Women’ and ‘The Invisibles,’ and is currently working on the Australian TV series ‘Pervert’ in a lead role. Later this year, Vanessa will be playing a lead role in an action drama feature film ‘Syndicate‘. Vanessa honed her skills at the Actors Pulse, is currently studying at the Sydney Acting Studio, and continues her ongoing stunt training with Ray Anthony at Stunt Action Consultants.

Paul Talbot – John

Paul Talbot began his acting career strong, receiving two nominations for best performance at Bond University Qld for his stage roles as Argus in ‘Good Knight Reverie’ and Bradley in ‘The Picnic’. He was also awarded best performance in the 2018 QSFT Awards Night for his lead role in ‘Mirror Mirror’. From here, he continued to catch the attention of audiences in ‘Eleventh Day’ as Robert Hodgeson, and the comedic role Dick in ‘Dick’s Desolate Destinations’, a parody showcasing his natural comedic abilities. It was not till his two theatre roles in ‘Looking for Love’ (David, the Reverend) and ‘Helpless the Bittersweet’ (Joe, SUNPAC Qld), both sold-out venues, that proved his versatility as an actor. His continuing rise has secured him supporting roles as Varg in the TV series ‘Nightingale Lonely Melodies’, Michael in ‘Company Policy’, Pete in ABC TV series ‘Born to Spy’ and John in the feature ‘After She Died’.

Other cast members include Adam Golledge (The Longest Weekend), Barbara Bingham (Deadhouse Dark, Friday the 13th Jason Takes Manhattan), Greg Poppleton (The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader), Cassandre Girard (Thor: Love and Thunder), Lorry D’Ercole (Moulin Rouge!) and newcomers Annabelle Andrew, Noah Fowler and Mariah Stock.

What inspired the story? How did it come about?

Jack Dignan: The story of After She Died came to me, admittedly, after a weekend spent binging old episodes of the Twilight Zone and a bunch of Asian horror movies, such as Audition and A Tale of Two Sisters. I loved the style, look, and atmosphere of those films, and I had this idea blossom about a father introducing his daughter to his new girlfriend and the girlfriend looking exactly like the daughter’s dead mother. I wanted to take the style and approach of those Asian horror movies I loved so much and apply it to the little story idea I had in mind. So I got writing and three years later, after a lot of hard work and endless nights crying myself to sleep, After She Died was completed!

What makes this story unique and why should people watch it?

Jack Dignan: After She Died is horror through the uncanny. The story begins in deliberately familiar territory – a broken family dynamic, grieving protagonists, a character seemingly brought back from the dead – but, without giving away the film’s twists and turns, audiences will gradually discover that the real story of After She Died isn’t what it first appeared to be. All those familiar beats and setups gradually get turned on their head, subverting expectations in the most gruesome and terrifying ways. It’ll dig right under your skin and won’t let you go!

What was the production process like?

Jack Dignan: Unorthodox (laughs)! We made this film in the most indie way possible – raising the money ourselves through private funding and an abundance of favours. A lot of the crew were people Rhys, and I knew or had worked with before who were willing to come on board and help bring my vision to life. It was shot fast and cheap, but never at the expense of quality. We had 18 days to shoot it, and we moved at a million miles an hour. The images, sounds, and performances on screen are, in my totally biased opinion, sensational, and despite a challenging production, I’m beyond happy with the final product. Every dollar we had was put onto the screen.

What was the most challenging part of bringing the project to light?

Jack Dignan: The biggest challenge was just getting to that first day of shooting. All I wanted for so many years was to get to that first day. I knew that once we started shooting, no matter what unexpected challenges came our way afterward, there would be no turning back. We had to commit. But until the cameras start rolling, anything goes. Thankfully, those cameras rolled.

Did anything funny or exceptional happen on set?

Jack Dignan: It was greatly speculated that the house we were shooting in was a haunted house. Much of this film takes place in our lead character’s house, and a few of us crew members lived in this house during filming. At night, we’d hear things (or people!) moving about in the dark, lights would turn on, gates would open, and one night our behind-the-scenes photographer Nicole even saw a dark figure wandering the upstairs hallway… while all of us were hanging out downstairs. I’ve got so many stories of spooky shenanigans happening in that house. Maybe there’s a movie to be made from them…

Are there any great achievements from your cast or crew you want to mention?

Jack Dignan: So many! I’m so proud of all the cast and crew, and I could talk about them endlessly. Rhys William Nicolson, our cinematographer, and co-producer, just released my favourite movie of the year so far – Wyrmwood: Apocalypse! Definitely check that one out. Adam Golledge, who plays Louis, just sold out multiple sessions at Sydney Film Festival for his new film The Longest Weekend! Noah Fowler, who plays The Sheep-Man, just starred in a hilarious new play in Sydney. Paul Talbot, who plays John, keeps popping up in a new ad every time I open Facebook. The list goes on and on! I could talk about them all, but we sadly don’t have the time. They’re a talented bunch, though, that’s for sure.

What is the next step for the project?

Jack Dignan: The film comes out in North America on September 30, thanks to the fine folk at Cranked Up Films and Good Deed Entertainment, which is very exciting. The next step is getting the film released here in Australia, so I can finally prove to my family that this passion project of mine is real and not some scheme to steal all their money/investments.

Has it won any awards or had any big achievements yet?

Jack Dignan: Several Academy Awards, including Best Picture!

If you could redo anything in the process or the film itself, what would it be?

Jack Dignan: That’s a tough question! The film’s too fresh in my mind and close to my heart for me to answer that. Maybe I’ll be able to give you a better answer in five years. But I will say that I learned a lot about filmmaking, what works and what doesn’t work, and how to tell a narrative across 100 minutes, and I hope to take all this knowledge with me into my next movie.

Check Out The Official Launch Of The 2nd Make It Australian Campaign TVC, “Serenity”

Today sees of the launch of another poignant Make It Australian campaign TVC, ‘Serenity,’ inspired by the classic 1997 Australian comedy The Castle.

‘Serenity’ is the second of four specially made TVCs we had commissioned to support our campaign, with others to be released in the coming months.

Check out the TVC below:

How you can support Make it Australian:

  • Head to Make It Australian and take action.
  • Email your newly elected MP and Senator to tell them about this issue.
  • Download and print out a postcard from the Make It Australian website and use these to take a photo, upload it to social media, and tag it with #MakeitAustralian.
  • Follow them on social media and share social media posts about the campaign with your networks.

Meet The Man Behind The July 2022 Issue Of FilmCentral Magazine: Steve Stanulis

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Steve Stanulis, trailblazing actor, producer, and creative force behind Stanulis Productions Inc. and Chaos Production Inc. has appeared in several major studio movies such as ‘The Interpreter’ and ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry,’ acclaimed indie films (Cupidity, Over the GW), and TV shows (The Sopranos, HBO series The Deuce). He also branched into production, starring in and producing the short films Dick & Jane and Because of You, and the award-winning feature The Invisible Life of Thomas Lynch.

Originally a decorated NYPD officer, Stanulis changed his career path when he got injured on the job. After studying at Manhattan’s HB Studios, Stanulis pursued his long-standing love for films. His passion eventually led him to getting co-starring credits in Aftermath with Tony Danza and Anthony Michael Hall, Darkroom with Elizabeth Rohm, Sam, executive produced by Mel Brooks, and American Fango, winner of a dozen Best Feature awards. Stanulis also starred in and produced the comedy-drama The Networker, co-starring William Forsythe, Sean Young, and Stephen Baldwin, directed by indie icon and frequent Stanulis collaborator John Gallagher. It was released in September 2017 by Sony’s The Orchard, making three consecutive films (Sam, American Fango, The Networker) acquired by Sony companies in less than a year, a truly unique achievement.

As a producer, Stanulis founded Stanulis Productions, Inc. in 2012, with the feature film Long Shot Louie, starring Jake Robinson (The Carrie Diaries), winning Best Drama at the Williamsburg Film Festival. In 2016, he produced and starred in Say Something, co-starring Marc John Jeffries, a cautionary anti-terror drama filmed in Times Square, receiving massive media exposure and also available on Amazon Prime. He directed the feature-length musical documentary Legends of Freestyle starring Lisa Lisa and C & C Music Factory and created the pilot for the TV series The Fifth Borough, starring Cathy Moriarty, Richard Grieco, Vincent Young, Vincent Pastore, and Joseph D’Onofrio. Stanulis recently created Chaos Production Inc. and announced his first project, the horror movie Clinton Road, which he will direct, starring Ice T, Vincent Pastore, Bo Dietl, Ace Young, and Fredro Starr.

Stanulis’ creativity is inspired by his experiences as a former NYPD policeman, Chippendales dancer, and bodyguard for several A-list celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Kanye West. FilmCentral magazine recently caught up with Steve to discuss his journey in the industry, and here’s what went down:

Can you describe your journey to becoming a producer?

I always believed when I broke into this business that you have to make yourself indispensable. The thought of waiting for my agent to call or putting my destiny into someone else’s hands never sat right with me. So I decided to produce and make myself more valuable to the powers that be in the business.

What methods do you use to communicate effectively with directors, actors, crew members, and writers to discuss production details?

I always like a hands-on approach when discussing a new project I am producing. I want to share my visions with the writer, director, and most importantly, the actor. I love getting feedback on character development and like to give everyone the comfort to provide their creative input, which I believe is essential to making great content.

What do you think is the most important skill to have when producing something for television or for film?

The most important skill to have is no matter how big the production is; you’re always going to run into issues, whether it be with the cast, a location, or a food allergy. No matter the issue, never let anyone see you get flustered, and always be prepared with a plan B. I think that usually comes with experience over time.

What do you think is the most difficult task of a producer when planning a production?

The most difficult task behind the scenes is ensuring all the proper funds are not only in place but allocated accordingly. The second equally important task is scheduling your DOODS with your “Anchor” actors in place within specific time frames that coincide with your main locations.

What is the first step you take when working to secure financing?

Dealing with a studio like Lionsgate, for example. Letting them know the budget and genre and who they deem means the most, both foreign and domestic actors, to properly set your budget to assess potential earnings while mitigating risk.

How do you go about establishing deadlines for a project, and what do you do to keep it on schedule?

I am very old school in the sense that once you set a hard date for something, it makes it real and gets everyone on the team in the mindset that it’s go time!

Given the choice, would you prefer to miss a deadline to make a project perfect or meet a deadline but compromise the quality of the production?

Luckily I have never been in this situation. But if that were to happen, I would definitely miss the deadline and then compromise the integrity of the project.

Can you tell us about a time when you needed to change your style to accommodate the communication style of one of the critical members of the production team?

Every new project brings different people to the cast and crew. You are dealing with many personalities from different parts of the country. Some might not have the same mindset or do things differently. I always start off being the most professional I can be with everyone and try my best to read the room. Usually, I assess from there but if you are a professional and you treat everyone, with respect at all times I feel it goes a long way with the whole team.

What do you look for in a script when deciding whether you would like to join a project as the producer?

What I look for in a script is simple: does the genre and certain script have marketability and will it make money! Or is the topic of the script timely with what’s going on in the world today.

How do you deal with unforeseen strains on the budget and/or timetable during a production?

Like I mentioned in a prior question, I have been absolutely blessed that I have yet to go over budget. I hope next time we speak I have the same exact answer (laughs).

What projects are you working on right now?

Right now we are about to release a film called “Monica” with Emily Browning at Patricia Clarkson fall of 2022. We are working on a tv show called “Great Kills” closely with Peacock. As well as a pretty controversial documentary called “15 days with Kanye.” Those are the immediate ones n post production we are off to an amazing 2022!