New web series creator calls bullshit on herself
Written and Directed by Loani Arman
Produced by Melissa Crabtree
Starring Bernie Van Tiel, Chloe De Los Santos, Thomas Larkin and Christen O’leary
Article written by Loani Arman
My ambition as writer & director of The Mother Load was always to put cultural diversity and women at the forefront of the project. It’s a story about a gloriously reckless 25 year old woman whose life is gate-crashed by the daughter she gave up for adoption ten years ago. It called for two female leads and I wanted them both to come from diverse backgrounds.
After going through the regular casting channels though, I was stumped. Where were all the diverse actors? So few seemed to be coming through that audition room door.
I began to look at other options and a few weeks later, found myself ready to cast an Anglo-Australian actor in one of the roles. Sure, the actor in question was talented, but there was also something else they brought to the project that appealed to me: a public profile and a large social media following. There was commercial promise in hiring an actor like that. If I could access their existing fan base, that would mean more eyes on my project, more publicity, and more views. Right? I couldn’t turn that down. Right?
Thankfully, I called bullshit on myself!
What was I thinking? I only had to look back at my own experiences as an actor to know why there weren’t too many diverse actors rolling in.
I was once told by a director that I didn’t look ‘Indonesian’ enough to play an Indonesian character. Come again? I was born in Indonesia to an Indonesian mother. How did I not qualify, particularly when the actor that got the role was Vietnamese?
I would go on to audition for countless ‘Generic Asian’ woman roles but wouldn’t get them because, that’s right, you guessed it – “Not Asian Enough.” I should’ve got it printed across my headshots. I would test for Indian characters, South American characters, Italian and Greek characters, learning different accents for all, but I didn’t look or sound enough like those, either. The colour of my skin had somehow become open for interpretation by others. My self worth was at the mercy of an industry telling me there weren’t any roles for an Indonesian-Australian woman on screen.
So, I began removing myself from opportunities. I would turn down auditions or sabotage them until eventually, I just stopped putting my hand up. I stopped looking for that audition room door.
If I was struggling to find a culturally diverse actors to take on the lead roles in The Mother Load, that didn’t mean those actors didn’t exist. I just wasn’t looking hard enough. To balance the scales of cultural and gender representation on our screens, decision makers on projects big and small HAVE to work harder to find and welcome new voices. They simply must.
We ended up searching outside of traditional casting routes for the leads on The Mother Load. One night, I found myself trawling through beatboxing videos on YouTube and came across a young Filipino-Australian beatboxer called Bernie Van Tiel. She was beatboxing in a bathtub. That is not a typo! Who wouldn’t cast someone off that video, alone?
Bernie scored the role of Kali and the casting of Chloe De Los Santos as Owen soon followed. We finally had a project that was not only led by a diverse cast, but was also being steered by a majority female cast and crew.
I’m grateful to have a funding body like Screen Queensland continue to support my work. They haven’t just thrown ‘gender parity’ and ‘diversity’ around like PR buzz words. They put their money where their mouth is and The Mother Load is the result of that.
The Mother Load pilot is available to watch online now. Its commercial success – how many views or likes or clicks or shares it gets – rests in the hands of the internet now. As for its creative success, though? I would argue that’s been achieved, because that success belongs to my wonderful producer, our incredible crew, and our diverse cast. We ALL set out to make a film that addressed gender and cultural diversity on our screens, whilst simultaneously telling a cracker of a story. I think we’ve done that and I really hope you do, too.
LOANI ARMAN is the writer / director / creator of THE MOTHER LOAD. The Mother Load is produced by Melissa Crabtree, shot by Ben Cotgrove and edited by Pip Hart. Production designer is Megan Chambers, costume and M.U. designer is Maddy Lord and sound design was done by Mary Duong.
WATCH THE MOTHER LOAD PILOT NOW: https://bit.ly/2ziKEPy
FOLLOW THE MOTHER LOAD ON FACEBOOK: facebook.com/themotherload.tv