Celina Yuen and Matthew Victor Pastor.
If anyone can lay claim to the mantle of Australia’s most prolific indie filmmaker – and the fastest – it would be Matthew Victor Pastor.
The writer-director-producer has churned out no fewer than six films in the past 18 months, each of the the last four on a remarkable shooting schedule of 5-7 days.
“I grew up around weird and wonderful people in the 3174 postcode [Noble Park, 25km south-east of the Melbourne CBD] and go between suburban Australia and high-rise Asian-Australian apartment living,” says Pastor, who was born in Melbourne in the year his mother emigrated from the Philippines.
“My crazy filmmaking comes from always being from two worlds, something I used to find discomfort in until I embraced it and turned it into art. Where I’m from I shouldn’t really be a filmmaker, or one who is as efficient as me.
“I wonder, had I tried to be a director from my mother’s socio-economic background before marrying out, let’s say if I was born in the Philippines, could I ever had achieved what I have? I also use films to deal with my anxiety, adult ADHD, BPD among other issues, so it’s win-win.”
His MELODRAMA/RANDOM/MELBOURNE, a modern kaleidoscope of the Filipino community in Melbourne, which battles with assimilation, alienation, racism and sexism, had its Australian premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival following the world premiere at the Sinag Maynila Film Festival in the Philippines.
Co-written with his regular collaborator Celina Yuen and shot in English and Tagalog with English subtitles, it follows the intersecting lives of a feminist documentarian, a pick-up artist, a sex worker and a virgin. The cast is headed by Yuen, Bridget Moy O’Brien and Rachel E. Zuasola.
In his review critic Adrian Martin hailed Pastor as an energetic and prolific filmmaker worth keeping tabs and said his vision projects a bleakness that is hugely reminiscent of Mike Leigh’s Naked and there are many traces of Jean-Luc Godard in the narrative structure.
MAGANDA! Pinoy Boy vs Milk Man, which will have its world premiere at Monster Fest, is the tale of a psychopathic murder dubbed the Milk Man who kills Asian women by creaming their faces. Sent to clean up the mess is Pinoy Boy, the world’s deadliest Filipino.
Co-written with Kiefer Findlow, the film has a parallel story which centres on Angelo, a down-on-his-luck filmmaker who suffers from small penis anxiety, and features Batang Kalawang, Pastor, Glenn Maynard and Stuart Simpson.
Among the films in post is Repent or Perish!, which follows Amos, a young gay man hiding his sexuality, his sister Jewel, a drug dealer, and their father Julian, a conservative Filipino Christian, and stars Alfred Nicdao, Celina Yuen and Kevin Pham.
Also in post are A Bigger Jail (inside & unprotected), a psychosexual thriller about a murderer released from prison and a young married couple with a secret fetish, featuring Yuchen Wang, Yuen, Khoa Le, David Garotti and Nicdao; and The Axolotl Can Regenerate Its Heart, which stars Bridget Moy O’Brien (who is also the co-writer), Yuen and Rachel E. Zuasola, and looks at the day in the life of Serena, a bisexual Eurasian drug dealer.
He’s just wrapped In Heaven They Sing Karaoke, a drama about a small-time drug dealer and his surrogate family, featuring an ensemble cast of Felino Dolloso, Lilibeth Munar, Nicdao, Yuen and Zuasola.
Pastor says he has a sibling relationship with Yuen, observing: “We both have religious Filipino mothers with fathers who are 20 years older, and have been a product of the constant stereotypes that surround that dynamic. We are proud artists owning where we are from, and what our futures will be.”
Until now all his films have been privately financed, with budgets ranging from as little as $1,000 to $30,000. Asked how he makes his films so fast and economically, he says: “I take a very hands on approach and, as I am my own DOP, I shoot in a very particular style. We use mostly natural light, we add sliders for certain shots and switch over to the Zhiyun Crane stabiliser for tracking shots.
“I have a similar set up in all my films. I also like to utilise the Melbourne CBD, which has all the neon lights one needs to shoot quick and efficiently. I do all of my post production with a small dedicated team.”
He says AFTRS and Screen Australia are putting up some funds for his upcoming film Fun Times, a drama about the cycle of violence in suburban Australia, written by Llewellyn Michael Bates and produced by CJ Welsh.
A VCA graduate, he made his directing debut last year with Butterfly Flower, co-written and co-directed by Lisac Pham. The tale of a Vietnamese prostitute who loves art and will do anything for her love, starring Fely Alvarado, James Browning and Charlie Dao, it’s available on the Asian American VOD platform Chopso.
“In the height of Asian representatives in the West with Crazy Rich Asians and Searching and so on I feel I am offering another perspective, one that speaks to the marginalised,” he says. “It might not be as marketable but the films are really beautiful, speaking to the survival story we all have in the West.”