Maria Tran chops her way to the top
Me and a bunch of friends, a majority of hobby filmmakers, wanted to make something that resonated with the Asian-Australian communities and dreamed of making movies in the Asian market for an international scale.
Maria Tran is an Australian-Vietnamese producer who’s built a career on dreams, kung fu and hard work. Tran has recently worked on local hits including Maximum Choppage and Love Child, and has wrapped with Hollywood legend, Roger Corman's upcoming mixed martial arts movie. Tran also completed a Screen NSW Emerging Producer Placement in 2012.
How did you get started in the screen industry?
In 2007 I completed an indie kung fu action comedy film set in the backdrops of Cabramatta called Maximum Choppage. I’ve always loved the martial arts action genre and have been a big fan of Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Donnie Yen.
Why did you apply for the Emerging Producer Placement (EPP)
I found out about the program through being a finalist for the 2011 Metro Screen Pitching Competition. Sally Regan, who was then at Screen NSW, introduced to me to the program.
What did you get out of the program?
I learnt a lot about the processes that it takes to create quality projects for Australian screen and television. It was a big jump for me from making community films that were just for online uploads. I’ve expanded my awareness of the Australian film industry, its directions and the visions of its filmmakers in creating diverse content that engages with audiences.
Can you tell us how the EPP assisted with your career progression?
During my placement I was able to work on the story development of Maximum Choppage. By this stage, the production company, Matchbox Pictures, had acquired it and I was able to be a part of the developments as well as be part of the EPP. I then moved on to becoming an associate producer, stunt double and extras casting coordinator for the show.
Since then I’ve worked on two Chinese films including a Roger Corman movie, Fist of The Dragon, and Death Mist. I worked as a key player in developing fight choreography, providing the stunt work and playing supporting roles in both movies.
After this I’ve worked on David Bradbury’s documentary for ABC, The Crater and on Love Child as a Vietnamese casting associate.
What are you working on now and how did those projects come about?
I’m currently in Vietnam working on Tracer, an action movie with renowned Vietnamese actress Truong Ngoc Anh and Canadian-Vietnamese director Cuong Ngo.
I work as part of the Australian-based Dong Thanh Alliance martial arts screen action team to devise the fight action choreography, to train actors to edit fight scenes. I also do part of the female stunt work as well as playing the character, Phuong, a female fighter.
In Sydney a feature length documentary called Memories Gone By still awaits me.
How are you finding all this work internationally?
At first, it was overwhelming. Movie making in Asia is super fast-paced and requires you to be equipped with a lot of flexibility and perseverance. A skillful filmmaker in Asia is one that can dynamically multitask in the key areas of writing, acting, producing, editing and directing.
The more skills you have under your belt the more you are invaluable. In addition, there is a high demand for content for their audiences. In Vietnam, I’m able to do a lot more and contribute significantly to the film industry from my learning and experimentation in Australia. Having the language is a great asset and having self-confidence and a bigger vision will make you go further.
What advice would you have for someone starting out?
Be open-minded and work towards having a clear vision of where you want to go in the industry. The more influence you want to have, the more collaboration and leadership qualities you must develop. Finding a market is also very important and sharing the creative process is the key for longevity in the industry.
How do you get noticed?
Stand out from the crowd. Find your unique selling point and take pride in your roots and where you come from. Being specific and one-of-a-kind is what will take you places but this is something that can take years to find.
Are programs worth applying for?
Programs are worth applying for in Australia, and also to have a system that helps you get your project from A-Z. It gives you a producer’s discipline that you may not find in just candid video uploads. In Vietnam, however, private investment is a key component to film financing and the filmmaking process is linked to a broader web of branded entertainment and advertisements. This is a country that is starting to boom in the cinema going market and their predominately youth demographic are going to the cinemas at least once a week to escape the daily grind.
What is the one thing you wished you had known in the beginning that you know now?
I think everything has been a progression but if I can turn back time, I would say be downright confident and think not only on a local scale, but globally. The Australian film industry will eventually come head to head with the Asian market, and one big demand already is for an Australian-based fight action team that can provide talent in these countries. I think we have to look at sharing stories and telling stories from perspectives that would meet the local Asian market tastes and that way we can then have our talents exported to the world.