Tony Le-Nguyen

Actor, Writer, Director

Vietnamese Youth TV Project

Written by Tony Le Nguyen

VYTV project was highly successful, attracting approximately thirty young people of Australian Vietnamese background, none of whom had any previous experience in video production. These participants learned the fundamentals of video production through a workshop series. At the same time, they gained an insight into the process of community cultural development, gaining confidence through mutual support, to progress through the skill workshops.

The work from the photographic workshop were exhibited as part of the 1997 Maribyrnong Festival, at the Access Gallery, Footscray Community Arts Centre. A night of raw performances, “Dem Lieu Mang”, were organised by the young people involved in the drama group, attended by more than 150 young Australian Vietnamese people. Two video documentaries written, directed, edited and produced by the young Australian Vietnamese people in the project were screened on Optus LocalVision in February 1998.

This opportunity was provided as a result of the successful application for support from Australia Council and, subsequently, the involvement of the key artists and Arts workers to deliver the workshop program as planned.

It was also possible to offer this opportunity by arranging sponsorship from Optus LocalVision, who provided studio usage, extensive use of cameras and associated equipment, and editing facilities. As part of this sponsorship, participants were able to have their work broadcast, therefore enabling them to communicate with the wider community.

Footscray City Secondary College was also an important factor in VYTV’s ability to provide young people of Australian Vietnamese background with the opportunity to work in this field. FCSC provided access to its dark room facilities.

As a result of the strong interest in the VYTV project and the interest it stimulated among the participants in improving their performance skills, a new group has been established at Footscray Community Arts Centre.

Australian Vietnamese Youth Media (AVYM). AVYM’s objectives and philosophy encompass those of the VYTV project and extend beyond them. It is committed to excellence in the non-prescriptive artistic expression of the Australian Vietnamese-Australian experience. Among its current activities is Dem Lieu Mang, an innovative project of drama and music improvisation performance nights.

Two videos, each of approximately thirty minutes duration, produced by VYTV participants, were broadcast on Optus LocalVision during the summer of 1997/98. One of the video produced “The Changing Face of Footscray”, written and directed by Susan Hua was reviewed by Heather Anton, a Social Worker with the Department of Education of Victoria. This is what she wrote:

One of the most interesting aspects of this video was the obvious development of script and ideas as the video progressed. It was good to see the new depths in the values of the presenter/producer. I was also particularly impressed with the segment that looked at the friendship between Susan and Daniella. I believe that this issue could have been developed further as it gave a very interesting slant to the concept of multiculturalism. I am probably being a little pedantic her, but I think that it may have been better to have the titled the video “The Changing Face of the West” as many of the shots were not of Footscray but of other suburbs in the Western Region.

I like the style of the presenter, particularly the way her own story and that of her family was woven into the script. It gave a very personal face to the changes that we see in Footscray and the West as a whole. I also thought Susan’s use of Mai Ho and Sang Nguyen was very effective and here again it personalised the changes.

I found the video easy to watch, informative and it raised several issues that perhaps at some later date Susan might want to develop further. I would particularly like to see the issue of multiculturalism, especially from the point of view of young women of different ethnic backgrounds, explored more fully.

I would like to say in closing that I believe we need to give more young people the opportunity to have their stories heard and I would like to congratulate all involved in this project as they have done a wonderful job of encouraging these young people to raise their voices and be heard.

From a technical, filmmaking point of view the reviewer makes valid comments concerning areas for furthers development or improvement. However, her comments also reflect an awareness that the VYTV project videos were produced as part of a Community Cultural Development project. There is an understanding that the process of involving young Australian Vietnamese-Australians, and their responses to that involvement, was a priority of the project.

In fact, the structure of the project was designed to give as much weight to on-screen outcomes, within the limits of a 20 week workshop series for people without prior experience in this field, as the responses of the participants, both individually and in groups, to the challenges that they discovered during their involvement. This included the challenges of learning to work together while having widely differing ideas and views due to varied experiences and duration of settlement in Australia.

Without the support of Australia Council, through the Cultural Development Fund, this project would not have been mounted. The VYTV project provided an intensive collaboration between professional artists and the community, specifically young Australian Vietnamese-Australians. The involvement of professional artists and the sharing of their skills would not have been possible without support.

The grant enabled the VYTV project to proceed and, in turn, this was the first step towards the empowerment of young Australian Vietnamese-Australians to medium of television for the first time to present their own perspective’s of their communities and their own lives. Australian Vietnamese young people are one of the most vulnerable and marginalised group in our community. They are seen but not heard either within the Australian Vietnamese community due cultural reasons, or within the wider communities. Australian Vietnamese young people are brought up to obey their parents and the adults in their lives. At school they are asked to speak their minds. If they do the same things at home or are seen to be questioning their parents values they are often punished.

It was from within this context that the VYTV project was able to provide young Australian Vietnamese people with a voice to speak out about the issues of particular concern to them, including like multiculturalism, racism and family conflict. The project also introduced young Australian Vietnamese people to the seemingly exclusive media world, which they perceive as being dominated by white Anglo Saxon-Australians.

The VYTV was effective in de-mystifying the basic processes of television production while also further stimulating their interest in entering the media industry. A number of participants have entered further studies to help them secure media-related careers. One participant returned to complete Year 12, taking media studies subjects, after having left school twelve months earlier. Another participant has begun Film and Television studies at Footscray City TAFE.

Given positive outcomes such as the lasting enthusiasm of VYTV participants to embark upon such studies with a view to entering the media industry, it is clear that the grant has been valuable and effective.

An unexpected but valuable outcome of the grant for VYTV is the emergence of Australian Vietnamese Youth Media (AVYM). AVYM is a community-based production company and a communication and networking centre for Australian Vietnamese young people. It is focal points where young people exchange ideas, develop new projects and seek support and advice. Australian Vietnamese Youth Media has become an important part of Footscray Community Arts Centre, providing access to the arts and the media industry for young Australian Vietnamese.

It is also clear, however, that the VYTV project was a modest start in dealing with barriers to Australian Vietnamese-Australians taking roles in shaping contemporary culture.

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