by FilmInk Staff

This year’s MCX Screenmakers Conference features a great line up of international and local industry movers and shakers, major players in production, and creative talent.

Guests include Lorien McKenna and Meg Lefauve from The Screenwriters Life Podcast, producers Hoodlum Entertainment (Harrow, Five Bedrooms, All My Friends Are Racist), Stan’s Amanda Duthie, Screen Australia’s Melissa Lee Speyer (Development), Netflix’s Nakul Legha (Acquisitions), Madman CEO Paul Wiegard; while producers from ABC’s Aftertaste talk about making the ‘recipe for a hit show’, including creator Julie de Fina.

Ben Law and Michelle Law will be speaking at the “CREATIVE OUTLAWS – CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO • IN CONVERSATION” panel on Saturday morning of the conference.

Ben Law is the creator/writer of SBS hit series The Family Law, based on his memoir, and author of Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East. He writes a regular column for Good Weekend and presents Radio National’s pop culture program Stop Everything! with Beverley Wang

Michelle Law is an author, playwright, screenwriter and actor. Her work includes the hit play Single Asian Female, the book Shit Asian Mothers Say (with Ben Law), and web-series Deadlock and Homecoming Queens.

What writers and filmmakers do you admire?

BEN “Phoebe Mary Waller-Bridge. Fleabag 2. It’s the perfect marriage of comedy and pain which is life. I May Destroy You. Beautiful, intelligent, unflinching.”

MICHELLE “Nicole Holofcener (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Enough Said). I like Charlie Kaufman. Wong Kar-wai.

BEN “Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story).”

Do you share your work?

BEN “Our work rarely overlaps, and we have eight years between us…and I see Michelle as a peer.”

MICHELLE “I’ll be a bear and hibernate with my work. I’m so lucky to have a sibling in the industry I totally trust. And respect.”

BEN “As minorities, we are often the only ‘xyz’ in the room. Navigating an industry that can be fraught – at the best of times – where there is a benefit in comparing notes about the industry.”

Talk about the rewards of being a creator at the moment?

MICHELLE “I really love engaging with audiences. Growing up, I was isolated and lonely, and it was through books and film and tv that I felt really connected to the larger world and I just thought it would be amazing to give that to someone else in some way.”

BEN “Michelle and I grew up in coastal Queensland. The internet was quite nascent. So, it was about tv, books, magazines…that blew open my world. Stories were the way I made sense of the world. The cool thing about it is you get to share…and I’m very generous [laughs].”

MICHELLE “When someone has seen a play or tv I’ve [written]…and they say, ‘this story gave me something at a time when I really needed to see it’ or ‘I’ve never seen myself reflected on screen before’… it imbues the work with meaning. I would have loved to have more of that when I was growing up.”

BEN “Michelle has said what I was going to say. Being able to recognise yourself is such a powerful thing. It doesn’t necessarily always mean like ‘oh, it’s someone from my cultural background’. Although that is something that is really, really important. I’m really passionate about making sure that Australia’s multicultural society is represented in stories. When you dig into the specifics of any story, the paradoxical effect is that people find the universal in them.”

A lot of writers go into a project thinking about something very specific in terms of ideas and themes, but along the way they discover something else about the subject. Can you relate to that?

MICHELLE “Stories are a way to make meaning out of the unpredictable. I think it depends on how each individual writer works. I was asked whether I was an architect or a gardener. An architect has a strict blueprint. They expect a certain outcome. A gardener lets things happen organically. I think I sit somewhere in between. I like to work in a greenhouse [Laughs]. I have an idea of what I want to say. But I’m open to things developing of their own accord.”

BEN “Whatever I’m working on is about making sense of a mess. I think the Architect/Gardener thing is largely true. There’s discovery in the specifics. It’s like saying, are you an introvert or an extrovert – everyone is a little bit of both. I’m working on a tv show with big themes, life and death and through the characters you are expressing what is inexpressible and things that we chose not to talk about. I see the role of Art as risk. I think people think that anything new is risk. Even if I’m making a tv show in a specific format I want to say something original that hasn’t been on screen before. In the conversation around diversity and inclusion… ‘is it a risk to have more diversity in the writer’s room’…I’m like ‘Oh my god, it’s a risk if you do not change and adapt!’”

MICHELLE “I think everyone in whatever marginalised community have experienced something like [a push back]. When I was younger it was a bit more explicit and as I have become more established it has become more implicit and more insidious. I have to call it out.”

BEN “All of the creative industries in this country have been so stagnant and stale because certain demographics of people have disproportionally given power. Whether it’s implicit or explicit. You get these conversations with White Male Middle-aged screenwriters who say ‘you must have it easy because you are in fashion at the moment…’ To that I say: ‘go fuck yourself!’ I think it’s such a sexist, racist, homophobic thing to say.”

MCX Screenmakers Conference is on September 10 – 12, 2021


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