On Oct. 17, ACTRA, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, announced the winners for their national diversity short film competition. Two out of the four winners are Manitoba filmmakers Alan Wong and Fernando Dalayoan.
The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists is a union representing over 22,000 performers within English-language media in Canada. Representing a variety of professions including actors, choreographers, and puppeteers, ACTRA’s mandate is “to negotiate, administer, and enforce collective agreements to provide performers with equitable compensation as well as safe and reasonable working conditions.”
Within ACTRA is the national diversity committee, which focuses on the concerns regarding casting of ethnic minorities, Aboriginal Peoples, and performers with disabilities. Past initiatives by the volunteer committee include the administration of an online guide for auditioning deaf performers.
The short film competition—conducted by the diversity committee—was the first of its kind within the union. ACTRA hopes the competition will promote and reflect the diversity in Canada with the stories that shared on screen.
“ACTRA Manitoba is very proud that two of the four winners of this challenge come from our branch. This challenge was open to diverse members right across the country,” explains ACTRA Manitoba branch president Talia Pura.
Having won the competition based on their script proposals, the winners now must complete a short one- to two- minute film based on the theme “Diversity is our Strength.”
“’Diversity is our Strength’ speaks to the mandate to allow all actors, in all groups and categories, an equal opportunity to appear on our screens and tell our Canadian stories,” Pura says.
For the two Manitoba filmmakers, the theme hit close to home.
“As an Asian male, I tend to get typecast into the following roles: doctor, office nerd, triad thug/gang boss. I’ve had to audition with an accent countless times and always for supporting or small roles,” explains Asian-Canadian filmmaker and actor Alan Wong.
Alan Wong is the eldest son of two Chinese immigrants. An actor for 20 years, Wong began his career in theatre at the University of Brandon. Over time, he began learning about writing and cinematography through Manitoba organizations such as the Winnipeg Film Group and Film Training Manitoba. Wong is also a singer-songwriter, having released a five-song EP, Sand & Stone, earlier this year.
“The theme of ‘Diversity is our Strength,’ to me, means that the more diverse our representation in films and television programming, the more appeal and acceptance those shows will have with our changing demographics,” Wong tells the Manitoban.
“Visible minorities make up the largest growing portion of our population; yet, traditional white-centric casting is still pervasive in most of our [television] shows and movies – not just in Canada, but all of North America.”
Fernando Dalayoan, of Blue Water Buffalo Productions, is the other Winnipeg winner.
Dalayoan has had success making short films as a writer, director, producer, and actor. Having had his work featured at events such as the Filipino International Film Festival and Vancouver Asian Film Festival, Dalayoan’s films reflect his cultural heritage as a Filipino-Canadian.
In his 2010 short film Tutulungan Kita (I’ll Help You), Dalayoan tells the story of a relationship between a Filipino man new to Canada and a Filipino-Canadian woman at a Winnipeg bus stop. Faced with different forms of discrimination, the two connect at more than just a cultural level.
For the competition’s upcoming short film, Dalayoan will continue with themes he has explored in past projects.
“The title of my film is called Hearing Diversity,” Dalayoan says.
“The film’s message is to move diversity beyond being seen on the screen. We should not marginalize diversity, but instead provide it with a greater, stronger voice.”
“What makes Canada so great for me [is] the diversity of individuals, talents, and cultures [that are] alive in this wonderful nation. It’s important to have that heard on screen loudly with confidence,” said Dalayoan.
“Diversity is a strength we have in Canada and we need to make sure we nurture it well.”
The winners are set to complete their short films in January of 2015. For more information on ACTRA, visit actra.ca