Two new interviews with Kim

Two new interviews with Kim have been published recently, each with its own particular perspective on THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE.

In the interview for DANIEL, the leading US publication for gay Asian men, Kim talks about the discussions he had with mentor Tommy Murphy on deciding the overall arc of the film, and discovering the piece’s emotion core. He also talks about his current projects and future plans. Read the piece by clicking below.

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The second interview, for PERIL, a magazine exploring Asian-Australian culture and arts, Kim talks about his dual cultural background, and the impact of the film on Asian-Australian viewers.

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Meanwhile, the film has had a fantastic response at festivals in Glasgow, Dublin, New York (see Laura at the Asian American Film Festival, below) and Vancouver, and 8 more festivals have now confirmed they will be showing the film in the next two months, bringing the film to live audiences in Australia, China, Germany, Denmark and 3 cities in the US.  

For the full list of screenings, see here, and if you are interested to screen the film, contact us, here. #spreadthelove

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Sundancing

Laura Scrivano, director of THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE, reports from a little film festival somewhere in the hills of Utah…

I’m powering down Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, LA in thirty-degree heat, grasping heavy-duty waterproof boots, scanning the shops with wild eyes. I’m getting some odd looks from the locals cruising past in their Toyota Prius’. There are two things wrong with this picture: 1. No one walks in this town 2. I’m looking for a snowboarding shop in a place where it barely rains, let alone snows.

But I’m desperate. I need thermals. I’ve seen snow maybe three times in my whole life. I’m not taking any chances.

I might be mildly panicking but it’s a feeling I’ll happily deal with – a few weeks ago we received the news that YouTube would feature our short The Language of Love at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. And just earlier in the week, I was told that thanks to our Executive Producers, atyp, I would be heading down to snowy park city to represent the film.

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With my YouTube issued Sundance survival guide safely stowed in my bag (remember to drink lots of water – high altitude; last year a Sundance ‘flu’ broke out – bring cold and flu tablets). I was on the plane, ready to network, party, queue for films and experience the Sundance magic.

Former atyp Alumni Began Land (now living in LA and filming NCIS: LA) found us some friends to stay with in the gorgeous Deer Valley, 10 minutes from Main Street, the centre of all the Sundance action.

Thick snowdrifts and sunny skies greeted us as we touched down in Salt Lake City. Five minutes in, on the shuttle bus to Park City I meet AJ Edwards, long-time collaborator with Terrence Malik whose debut feature Better Angels, with Australian Jason Clarke, was premiering at the festival.

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Friday night we head to the New Frontier Party, running into the Australian teams behind 52 Tuesdays and Babadook, both features screening at the festival, the organizers of Outfest (who saw The Language of Love at the Iris Prize Festival last October) who promptly invite us to the HBO Queer Breakfast and special screening of HBO’s new series LOOKING, and the Blackhouse Foundation team, who invite me to speak on a panel about successful short films.

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Sundance networking. Tick.

I’m keen to see new Australian Horror film Babadook so we queue for their midnight premiere. Queuing for a midnight screening is a rite of passage at Sundance. Despite the cold (hey, my thermal is working!), the atmosphere is lovely – everyone is smiling and the volunteers here have to be the happiest I’ve ever seen. We get into see Babadook and the film is terrifyingly good – I’m so happy for director Jennifer Kent and Essie Davis.

Saturday is screening day. After a late start, I head down to the YouTube space on Main Street where I meet my YouTube partner contact Michael Kaufman, and attend one of their many panels. Tonight is the main YouTube party, where The Language of Love will screen (as well as excerpts screening in front of the official shorts section). We are advised to get there early – it’s a hot ticket.

I arrive at 9pm – and the film is just about to play. It’s almost a year to the day that we filmed The Language of Love and suddenly it’s completely overwhelming to see a massive, digital Kim Ho (as Charlie) on the screen across the other side of the world. All I can think is “I wish Kim was here” and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It doesn’t quite seem real.

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When the film is over, the party really kicks off and it’s another late night. Everyone survives on adrenalin, coffee and free food.


The next day we catch the only Aussie feature in official competition, 52 Tuesdays (which director Sophie Hyde went on to win best director for!) and head back to YouTube for the Spin party. I forgot to read who was playing, so was blown away when Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz fame took to the stage to play an acoustic set with a string quartet. There were about 100 people in the room and you could hear a pin drop. Moments like these are why people go to Sundance.


On my final day we catch the Richard Linklater masterpiece on growing up – Boyhood (seriously see it – the less you know about it the better) and I head to The Blackhouse Foundation to participate in the panel talk on short films. The moderator is Karen Horne from NBC Universal and with me on the panel is Hank Willis Thomas, Cutter Hodierne (who went on to win the US directing award for his feature Fishing Without Nets) and Moon Molson. The panel is fantastic  – so much fun and very inspiring to hear about the other filmmaker’s work. The audience asks very insightful questions – about our success on YouTube, about working with actors, and being a female director in a male dominated industry – and I manage to string some decent sentences together (I think!). It’s privilege to talk about the work, and is one of the highlights of the festival for me.

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Flying back to LA, I’m exhausted, but thrilled by the Sundance experience. I can’t thank YouTube (and particularly Kelly Kaufman!), atyp, The Voices Project and our producer Dan Prichard enough for the opportunity to represent The Language of Love at Sundance.

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An unexpected journey – looking back on a year of love.

Kim Ho is the writer and star of The Language of Love. Here, he reflects on the journey he has been on over the past year.

As its title suggests, The Language of Love is a monologue about the hazards and joys of communication. It’s a coming out story, sure, but it’s also about the courage to speak. As a young writer and performer, I am particularly aware that self-expression requires you to be brave and articulate. The monologue is essentially my attempt to understand how we can fly in the face of logic and find the strength to speak our minds.

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It’s perhaps ironic, then, that it all started life in Maths class. While my friends grappled with calculus, I was scribbling furiously at the back of the class. The goal: to submit something for an online writing competition from the Australian Theatre for Young People in Sydney. The brief: write, film and upload a three-minute monologue about love. The catch: I knew very little about monologues, and even less about love. But, driven by a potent mix of naivety and curiosity, my little piece, Transcendence, was taking shape. The original inspiration was a short advertisement for GetUp Australia called It’s Time; the message of equal love struck me as a very important and urgent moral issue. Just hours before the deadline, I hastily filmed and edited it together – a misshapen but optimistic take on a boy admitting he has feelings for his best friend.

To my great surprise, the judges enjoyed my writing and Dan Prichard, Fresh Ink Manager and producer of The Voices Project, approached me with the idea of a mentorship with playwright Tommy Murphy. All I had to do, they said, was develop it into a longer work for filming.

Simple as that, right?

Nope: I battled hard, at first. My initial instinct was to try and use my monologue as an indictment of religious-based homophobia, but I couldn’t find the human message inside that premise. The breakthrough came when reading Tommy’s work. There was warmth in his writing that was immediately apparent and I devoured three plays in quick succession, crying and chortling my way through. Tommy treats his characters with a remarkable compassion and respect. Taking me on numerous strolls around Surrey Hills, he urged me to think of dramatic writing as an exercise in empathy. Theatre exists to entertain, I learned; it’s not a vehicle to lecture the audience on your own point of view. Start with a character, and let your story grow from there.

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And so Charlie began to take shape, with his own dreams, faults, quirks and, crucially, secrets. I wanted to make his story relatable to a diverse audience, so it’s less concerned with coming out than conquering fear – of exams, of expressing your feelings for someone, of losing your most trusted ally, of not knowing who you really are, and of facing the ridicule of a society that doesn’t yet accept you. The monologue’s assertion that all love is equal rested on Charlie’s ‘relatability,’ so I wanted my audience to get to know him a bit before they discover his sexuality. He’s a person, not an issue, and I treated him as such.

In tandem with writing, I was doing a substantial amount of research. I watched some teenagers’ coming out videos on YouTube and stood in awe of their bravery. One boy in particular showed an emotional maturity beyond his age: “Some people will be hating me… please don’t post it. Why are you watching this video if you hate it?” To my dismay, I learnt that this boy had been forced to take down his channel due to the amount of vitriol directed at him.

He was only twelve years old.

More and more, I knew that the film had the potential to do a lot of good, but I felt a responsibility to write something that remained respectful to the GLBTI community. Most importantly, I wanted to write something that would resonate with people regardless of their sexuality.

Tommy helped me through six drafts before handing me over to our director, Laura Scrivano. We agreed that performing my own writing would be a challenge, but might make the piece seem that bit more authentic. Laura is a performance-based director, and her process helped breathe life into the text. We found new rhythm and nuance I hadn’t been conscious of as a writer, fresh ways of looking at familiar phrases.

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Towards the end of January, performer, director and crew converged to shoot the film, now called The Language of Love, with a greater focus on French a metaphor for self-expression. Tommy, Laura, Dan and I agreed unanimously on setting the film in an examination hall, agreeing that we could emphasise solitude by placing Charlie amidst a sea of empty desks. Tragically, when he needs help the most, he’s alone… except for the viewers. I persuaded some friends to voluntarily sit an exam with me in a big old hall at Sydney Grammar, and after eleven hours on set we wrapped, exhausted but content.

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The film was cut together over the next two months, and released in early April, 2013. We were lucky enough to have Sydney’s MP Alex Greenwich attend the première at the Australian, Film, Television and Radio School: a small but enthusiastic gathering of cast, crew and friends. But as the view count across YouTube agrew, we realised that the film was exceeding our wildest expectations.

Stephen Fry was first. Tweeting the film resulted in so much traffic he crashed Fresh Ink’s website. ArtsHub and The Sydney Morning Herald increased that exposure. Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Danii Minogue joined in the support on Twitter. I got to speak on national radio in Australia and America. The film was mentioned in the Herald (again), leading US gay publication The Advocate, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Upworthy. It screened at the Tasmania Queer Film Festival (before The Rocky Horror Picture Show!) and the Shanghai Pride Festival, and was shortlisted for Cardiff’s Iris Prize. We’d almost finished off hyperventilating when Ellen DeGeneres tweeted the film, giving us 90,000 views in a day. I cannot begin to explain how proud (and completely surprised) the whole team feels when we look back at this journey.

Most important for us, though, was the extent to which The Language of Love connected with people all around the world, particularly GLBTI youth. The amount of positive feedback floored us – viewers of all ages and sexual orientations commented that the film’s message of love, friendship and hope deeply moved them (see comments from our YouTube channel, here). In our own small way, we seem to have challenged heteronormativity and homophobia and started conversations about traditional perceptions of love. I hope that our little film – made on a tiny budget with a few, passionate people – will continue to share ideas of tolerance, acceptance and courage in the face of adversity.

In fact, above all else, this process has taught me the importance of courage and having a go. Despite the monologue’s ambiguous ending, Charlie ‘wins’ because he confronts his fears. In a similar way, if I’d been too paralysed by my own inexperience to write Transcendence, I would have missed out on some monumentally groovy opportunities.

Being a young artist affords a special type of impunity. Exploit it for all it’s worth! Write, act, film.

Make mistakes and learn.

More than anything, the artistic community rewards courage.

So be brave. Take the plunge.

Introducing THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE

In THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE, 17 year old Charlie struggles to find the words to be true to himself…and his best friend.

Written and performed by Kim Ho and directed by Laura Scrivano, THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE is a wry, sensitive and moving account of a young man coming to terms with his sexuality and facing a life-changing decision. The film was written by Kim under the mentorship of leading Australian playwright Tommy Murphy, THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE was directed by Laura Scrivano as part of THE VOICES PROJECT from the Australian Theatre for Young People (atyp).  

Released in April 2013, THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE has been widely acclaimed, with leading US gay publication The Advocate describing it as a film ‘ to melt your heart’. Stephen Fry tweeted the film with just one word: ‘AMAZING!’, while Ellen DeGeneres has also backed the film, saying ‘This is amazing.’

Ellen
Starring:

Kim Ho as Charlie

Directed by Laura Scrivano
Developed from the original monologue, TRANSCENDENCE, by Kim Ho

Producer: Dan Prichard
Cinematographer: Ross Giardina
Editor: Anil Griffin
Production Designer: Bethany Ryan
Sound Designer: Declan Diacono
Sound Recordist: Daniel Lustri
Composer: Andrew Scott
Mentor: Tommy Murphy

Watch interviews with Kim, Laura and Tommy, below.

Listen to an interview with Kim, Laura, Tommy and producer Dan Prichard, below.

Listen to an interview with Kim on PRI’s The World, below.

Watch Kim’s short piece TRANSCENDENCE, the inspiration for the film, below.