I am Yang

Above: From JACKS [2020] a Visul and 13th Street Films production. Cinematography: Trimedium

This is my first time in a short film! My friend and actor Sen Shao called me and asked if I wanted to cast for the role of Yang in ‘Jacks’, which is a crime comedy written by Joel Stephen Fleming. Sure I did! I had seen Joel’s work before, because his film Night Fill was in the Australian Independent Film Festival last year. Initially I think I was more excited about meeting writers and other creatives than actually being in the film. But once I got my head around it, I really had fun!

First of all, ❤️ to Akira Le who read lines, filmed the self-tape and slate for me, so I could send it to Joel. Sen also recorded some Mandarin for me to learn for the self-tape.

Others in my “creative Fam” Minh Chong Ali and Barber Q Le were readers, and Q cut my hair too! I’m so grateful to these guys, who rocked up at zero notice to help me.

So who is Yang?

Yang is a bad ass crime boss, a powerful woman in a man’s world. Her assassin soldier is Zhi, played by Sen.

We feel that Yang is so strong, she doesn’t need to stand out.

Sian Laycock, 13th Street Films, Production Design & Costume
Above: From JACKS [2020] a Visul and 13th Street Films production. BTS photography: Gabby Zussino

Right! To make the point, Yang’s motel dressing gown (and slippers and eye mask) is the same material as the curtains and the bedspread. Yang is almost invisible but in the room we feel her strength. Sian made it all. When she wore it and sent me a picture I could just feel her delight! Haha.

Drug dealers Spud (Tristan Barr) and Drew (Jake Doak)
Above: From JACKS [2020] a Visul and 13th Street Films production. Cinematography: Trimedium

I interviewed Joel, and listened to the exchange of ideas between him and Producer Derek Griffiths, actors Tristan Barr, Jake Doak and Sen Shao. They talked about the insane dialogue. Or should I say inane dialogue. It’s clever! Joel creates a story but somehow the spoken words don’t say what’s going on at all. This was all new for me and I was loving it!

In his interview Joel had said, “We’re telling a story, with all the tools. You’ve got music, sound, actual dialogue. Then you’ve got the actions that the characters take, so in that way you’ve got a lot of facets and different ways to elicit emotion, which is what you are trying to do with a film.” Really, I was the happiest crime boss on the planet.

The call sheet said I was needed on Shoot Day 2. My alarm went off at 4.15am. I turned on the bedside lamp but the world stayed black. Pitch black. There was a power cut in Kooralbyn. Oh you have got to be kidding me. I stumbled around holding a USB light. Luckily, going on set is the one place where they don’t want you to wear makeup or put product in your hair, because they want to do it all. So you just scrub up and go. Small mercies eh?

Call sheet

Joel knew I had not done this before and he warned me that things are not filmed in sequence. So the gun scenes would be done when the gun guy arrived in the afternoon, some scenes needed to be shot at night… I tried to listen hard to the exchange between director and crew (and the other actors, who are way more experienced than me) to minimise what they had to explain to me. Scenes are done several times from a far-away view (maybe it’s called wide angle?) then all over again from the point of view of every character. Small actions are filmed, again and again. There are lighting changes, fluorescent tubes and coloured Perspex everywhere. It’s amazing.

I lay on the bed, cameraman Connor Armitage stood over me, his feet planted either side of my head and holding a monstrously heavy piece of equipment right over my face. (Not sexy, sorry.) Sound engineer Richard Lawton fixed a mic underneath my robe. He was so polite and thanked me for my patience while he strapped a cable to my body and weaved a tiny mic under my bra strap. Bless his cotton socks.

Can you spot Yang’s feet?

Make-Up Artist Zoe Evans, was given carte blanche by Sian to create Yang, after discussing lighting and colours. You’ll have to wait to see what she did. We talked about seeking the work-life balance. Zoe has horses, dogs and other animals, she’s artistic and musical.

I feel so privileged to help tell a story that someone has written, and really hope I did Yang justice. I also hope me being an older Asian woman with a British accent adds to the growing Asian collective seen in media. Thank you 13th Street Films. More posts coming about other people on and off the set!

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