THE COMMUNITY CREATES EXCELLENCE
One of the primary goals of the KNL group is to support and acknowledge local success stories and local heroes. One such story, truly worthy of telling, is Maria Tran’s. Although Maria is far from unknown in and around the Fairfield LGA, Cabramatta’s local, actress and filmmaker, is getting international attention with her recent role in the drama series: “The last King of the cross”. The TV show, inspired by the autobiography of one-time King’s Cross figure John Ibrahim, is soon to appear on Paramount+.
Maria (37) has lived in Fairfield since 1993 and after graduating from high school went on to study a Bachelor of Psychology at Western Sydney University. However, in between her studies, she began her road to success by making short films around the Fairfield area, in particular action comedies. One such film, although a feature-length movie, is “Echo 8” – an action thriller, produced by the Western Sydney local filmmaking community.
To find out more about her work, we spoke to Maria about filmmaking, acting, and her passion for martial arts.
KNL: Maria, how would you describe your movie Echo 8?
MT: Echo 8 is a completed feature-length action thriller movie, a passion project driven by the local filmmaking community of Western Sydney. This film is a first of its kind; it will be Australia’s first independent female-led action movie that is made possible by the community – mums, dads, kids, neighbours, and businesses – who have relentlessly banded together to create this.
KNL So what is “Echo 8” about?
MT: “An assassin, codename Echo 8, is sent into a house for a mission. But instead of coming out victorious, she finds her path riddled with unanswered questions and telling lies. As she uncovers the true identity of her target and the reason for her mission, she realizes some secrets can’t stay buried forever.”
KNL: Where was it filmed? Was it all done locally?
MT: All the locations for filming were in the vicinity of Western Sydney’s Cabramatta, Fairfield, Villawood, Bankstown, and Liverpool. The local community rallied around in support of the project. The red brick house is my father’s home, and it is the focal point of this film. When he went for a holiday overseas, my team and I took over the place and shot in every nook and cranny, from the living space, sunroom, bedroom, hills hoist, side garage… Literally, we used every spot to maximise where the drama takes place. Also, Quy Lawyers in Fairfield lent Agent 5’s office scenes, the VIP Karaoke Bar their space for clubbing scenes, while the Bushido club gave us their training space. Ramada Hotel gave a room space that doubled up for Echo 8 and Delta 1’s room and the team had a knack for setting up and cheating scenes to make it look like it was all connected.
KNL: What was the experience of filming during COVID?
MT: Completing a 90-minute film during COVID is a big achievement and we could not have done it without our community, cast, and crew who have put in so much of their time and effort. We want to get this movie onto a cinema screen, and we are gearing up for the international film festival circuit in 2023.
KNL: What titles would you give yourself in the film industry: actress, director, or producer?
MT: It really depends. But I’ve been told I’m a quadruple threat – actor, director, producer, editor, fight choreographer… In the earlier days of my film ventures, would have been shunned by the mainstream film community as not being specific and untrained. But after more than a decade of cutting my teeth on over a dozen film projects, documentaries and community engagement activities, I’ve proved that one can juggle many things with excellence, especially if you are making projects in collaboration with the local community.
KNL: “Echo 8” being an action movie, how much martial arts can we expect to see from you?
MT: There’s a total of seven fight sequences in between some pretty funny character banters and serious family dramas.”
KNL: What styles of martial arts do you practice?
MT: Tae kwon do, Shaolin Kung Fu, and Hapkido.
KNL: How long have you been studying martial arts?
MT: Since getting beaten up in high school in year 7. Mum and dad enrolled me in a local Cabramatta club so I would learn skills and not be picked on.
KNL: Can you tell us more details about filming and production?
MT: The film was shot over a time frame of 14 days. The script was developed in late 2019 and written over a course of 10 days by screenwriter Elizabeth H. Vu. Principal photography began in January 2020. Production was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the bushfires, and floods, and the final scenes were shot in February 2021. Postproduction was finalised in December 2022 in the lead-up to the first public screening on the 23rd and 24th of December 2022. The gear used was a Blackmagic camera and Panasonic GH5 camera, simple lighting and the shooting schedule was fast ‘n’ furious. Cast and crew often doubled up, even tripled up on roles and responsibilities. The project was facilitated through a community and cultural development artistic model. This model saw cast and crew as ‘artists’ working collaboratively to create something for social change.
KNL: So how did this all come to happen?
MT: “Echo 8” was conceived after making a series of internationally successful short action films such as “Hit Girls”, “Enter The Dojo”, and “Tiger Cops”. Having won film festivals and gained attention internationally, the logical transition was for the same filmmaking team in Western Sydney; Phoenix Eye to make a feature film set in the west with a predominantly Asian cast.
The journey to the creative industry has been an unconventional one. Fifteen years ago, I was studying towards a Psychology degree and somehow found the time to make little fun short action films with my buddies.
Flash forward to 2021, after working with at-risk migrant communities and the community arts sector, acting on various TV shows on Australian TV, and moving to the US during the pandemic, my drive to complete a no-budget feature-length action film has never wavered.”
KNL: When and where can we see “Echo 8”?
MT: “Echo 8” is set to be screened at the Art Gallery of NSW on Sunday, 2 April at 2.00 pm as part of the “Badlands” collection series. It’s now travelling throughout the world film festival circuit and after winning Best Feature will be screening in Tokyo, Japan and in Austin, Texas, US.
KNL The audience can all look forward to seeing you on the screen much sooner, as you are staring in the upcoming TV series “The last king of the Cross”, streaming on Paramount+ as of the 17th of February. What role do you play in the “Last King of the Cross”?
MT: In the series, I play the ruthless Vietnamese gang leader Madame Tien/Tran Cat Tien.
KNL: How did you feel playing this character?
MT: I’m excited to embrace a very complex character that is part of a suspenseful and intriguing crime drama that is a landmark international long-form TV series. The journey my character embarks on, provides a lens on society and its institutions, highlighting issues like corruption, discrimination, and power imbalances. There will be a lot of psychological intrigues as we explore her motivations, both good and bad, which will make her relatable and interesting to the viewers.
In the TV series, Maria co-stars with the English actor Tim Roth and Australia’s leading actors Callan Mulvey, Lincoln Younes, and Claude Jabbour. KNL thanks Maria Tran for talking with us and wishes her all the best in her career. Despite she has split her residence between the US and Australia and regardless of where her career takes her, Maria Tran will always be one of our great local success