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New business launch – Cheeky Monkey Kids

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The last few months have been crazy globally for all of us and now many of us find ourselves stuck at home, often thousands of miles away from our families on the other side of the world.

As a filmmaker, I've always shot a lot of footage of our daughter on my smartphone and starting from her first year I've taken the time to compile the footage my husband and I shoot and edit it together into an annual birthday celebration film that we can share with friends and relatives via social media. We've found its a great way for everyone not to feel as though they are missing out on all the magic moments as she grows up.

Every year when I share the film I have numerous friends and family members suggest that there's maybe a bigger idea here that should be explored. That maybe other families would like to celebrate their little ones with custom films too...

So finally, I'm giving it a go - and Cheeky Monkey Kids is the latest monkey on the block (and my new venture) aimed at connecting loved ones together during these hard times.

Please go check out the gorgeous custom celebration films we've created for other families featuring a bunch of very small cute people!

 

Everyday Heroes

When we arrived back in Hong Kong in March and watched as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the world, the global news was pretty overwhelming and heartbreaking. Like many, amidst such sadness and uncertainty, I was looking for a positive action to take.
In light of this, I randomly connected with Brad and the team at Underscore Films in Los Angeles and we set out to create a film highlighting the positive stories coming out of the pandemic. They assembled a team of 20 producers from around the world, and we started looking for incredible actions we could capture on film, remotely!
Gradually I began collecting stories to share; a friend's girlfriend in the Philippines who was giving away bags of food to people in her village who had run out, my Sister-In-Law in Italy who told me about how they were about to deliver bread and produce to a village in the Val D'Orcia that had been cut off, a local social enterprise here in Hong Kong that was delivering much needed hygiene kits to street cleaners.
As the stories began coming together, we quickly realized that this film would not just be about positivity, but instead, about the humanity in people. The everyday heroes amongst us. And I hope it inspires anyone who watches.

“My Extra Special Auntie”

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One of the fantastic results of creating "The Helper" documentary was that I got to meet lots of interesting and dynamic people working in the migrant worker rights space.  The NGO Enrich (featured in the documentary) had organised a screening of the film as part of an opening event to celebrate an art installation they comissioned entitled "Beyond Myself" with artwork by members of migrant domestic workers artists collective Guhit Kalay created in conjunction with Goldsmiths College, London.

I was lucky enough to be on a Q&A panel before the film screening with one of the artists exhibiting as part of the show, Cristina Cayat and we continued talking after the panel as she showed me around the exhibition that she and her fellow artists had created.  I was really impressed with their diverse talents and the insightful creativity displayed in the work.

Chatting to Cristina I remembered an idea I'd had a while ago. One of my regrets with "The Helper" was that the film was unsuitable for children under the age of 11 (both because of duration and content) and so we'd really missed out on taking the film's message to the next generation of potential employers of migrant domestic workers.  Given the support the film had received from schools throughout Hong Kong, I had always wondered if there might be another way to reach that audience...

The idea of creating a children's picture book that she and her cohorts would illustrate came up, and we agreed to meet to discuss the potential project...

A couple of weeks later on a Sunday afternoon, the six founding members of the group Guhit Kalay were in my office with me chatting.  We talked about the major issues and difficulties they faced working for families in Hong Kong, and what they would want their young wards to know about them that they might no already be aware of.

Gradually the story's narrative began to flesh itself out; We wanted to explore the experiences of migrant domestic workers in a way that a child could understand, as the close bond between domestic workers and their wards is a unique and complex dynamic.

We felt it was important to clarify that the presence of a domestic workers within a family does not replace a parent, but that they are instead an affectionate paid employee and an individual with a family, dreams and financial goals of their own.

I got to work on a first draft of the story and the women began some initial concept artwork.

We met again on a Sunday a few weeks later (the artists one day off per week from their domestic worker jobs) and I presented my text to them, and took notes on their feedback, and they shared some initial sketches they had created.

This process continued over the course of many months and gradually refined itself down so that two of the artists took the lead on the illustrations.

Noemi Manguerra's talent as an artist was evident immediately, as she was able to create work in a huge range of mediums as shown in her immense body of work.  But her instinctive illustration style became the obvious choice for our story, creating our family of characters in a very unique warm,  style.

Cristina Cayat (who I had first met on the Q&A panel) took on the role of finishing and dressing the characters using her dynamic sense of colour and in-depth knowlege and passion for traditional Filipino textiles.

Over the course of a year or so, we met monthly to share progress, until finally we had a story with pictures to match and we compiled them together as a book.  We also translated the text into traditional Chinese in order to be able to reach a local Hong Kong audience of readers.

We're currently in search of a publisher for the book, and were thrilled to recently be shortlisted for the Hong Kong Human Rights Art Prize.

 

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In production…

I haven't posted any updates on here for a while as I've had my head down focused on filming a new feature documentary for the last almost year or so...

The film follows three very different Hong Kongers who are innovating in the sustainable fashion and textile space. Their stories have taken us from Hong Kong to China, Singapore and Taiwan for filming seeing fascinating things and meeting incredibly interesting people who are changing the world (hopefully) for the better.

Like every project these days - I've learned so much during production.  It's been heartbreaking and incredibly inspiring and I really hope we're in the process of creating something powerful and potentially impactful!

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Hong Kong Confidential Podcast

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I was thrilled to bits when the lovely Jules Hannaford invited me to be a guest on her podcast Hong Kong Confidential to talk about "The Helper" documentary, being a filmmaker and a mum in Hong Kong.

You can listen to our conversation here:

Hong Kong Confidential is a podcast designed to educate and entertain. Jules Hannaford interviews interesting people in Hong Kong about their lives, personal journeys and secrets. Guests share their wisdom, experiences and insights with our audience. Guests include a doula, a dating and relationship coach, community leaders, LGBTQ+ activists, human rights defenders, abuse survivors, psychologists, life coaches, recovered addicts, authors, a fire fighter, a matchmaker, accomplished business women and many more. They all have fascinating stories to share.

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The Helper now onboard on Cathay Pacific – The Vocal Minorities

Super excited about this – as its the very first phase of the international release for The Helper (and an iconic Hong Kong brand) who are supporting the film and its messaging by choosing to feature the film on their inflight entertainment system and a really lovely article about the film in Discovery magazine’s June edition.

 

Can’t wait for my flight to Italy in August to get a selfie with the seatback screen!!!

 

 

You can check out the article online here: http://discovery.cathaypacific.com/vocal-minority-domestic-helpers-performed-clockenflap/

My first podcast experience with Hashtag Impact

#Impact podcast featuring Joanna Bowers talking about The Helper documentary

I was honored when asked by the very eloquent and charismatic host of the #Impact podcast series Regina Larko if I would be her featured guest for an episode to talk about how The Helper documentary came to be and the ongoing impact the film is having.  The interview itself was so much fun – connecting with another Hong Kong mum in media and sharing stories about my passions for telling women’s stories and my hopes and dreams for the film and its impact. I hope you enjoy listening!

Check out the link below to listen to the episode:

#49: The maternal sacrifice of Migrant Domestic Workers.

Joanna Bowers says "anyone can have an impact if I can" talking about The Helper documentary on #Impact podcast

But there’s more #Impact podcast…

I hope if you take the time to check out this well produced episode you’ll go on to enjoy the rest of the #Impact series featuring a host of incredible dynamic women having impact in Hong Kong. I love Regina’s tagline –

A podcast about stuff that matters – https://www.hashtagimpact.com

Listen on the #impact podcast website: