Takaya Honda, HaiHa Le, Lex Marinos prepare to film Joy Hopwood’s ‘The Gift That Gives’

Takaya Honda and Lex Marinos (Image: Greer Versteeg)

January will be a time for giving in Sydney as production on Joy Hopwood’s The Gift That Gives gets underway.

The fourth romantic comedy by Joy House Productions stars Takaya Honda as Callum Mori, an author whose book The Gift That Gives leads him to be invited to television program The Arts Corner, where he becomes an object of affection for presenter Kate Sedgeman (Lily Brown-Griffiths).

However, Callum becomes interested in Kate’s best friend Linda (HaiHa Le), who owns the bookshop where he launched his book.

Luckily for Kate, fate brings her together with Callum’s brother, Austin (Damien Sato), as they discover hidden love letters, signed by aliases, sparking a search to find out who penned them.

The cast also includes Lex Marinos and Susan Ling as Callum and Austin’s stepfather and mother, respectively, as well as Maria Tran, Andy Trieu, Genevieve Craig and Atharv Kolhatkar.

Hopwood wrote the script and will also direct and produce the micro-budget film, working alongside cinematographer Caz Dickson, production designer Valentina Lastrebova, sound recordist and designer Lara Cross, and editor Jon Cohen.

She hoped the project would emphasise the humourous aspect of the genre.

“There are many comedic moments in the film, and I hope audiences will get a laugh and be able to enjoy the film’s message and realise what the ‘gift that gives’ is in life,” she said.

The Gift That Gives comes hot on the heels of the theatrical release of Joy House Productions’ Rhapsody of Love, which was billed as the “1st Asian-Australian romantic comedy”.

With diversity to again be at the forefront of the upcoming production, the cast have expressed their excitement at what lies ahead.

“I am super excited to get started on The Gift That Gives,” Honda said.

“I was attracted to it because it is an interesting blend of a rom-com and a whodunit with rich and diverse characters. The script has some interesting twists and turns that don’t get caught in rom-com clichés.”

His sentiments were echoed by Le, who said she loved the spirit in which the film was being made.

“It takes a lot of courage and tenacity to set out to make a film and I wanted to be part of the ride,” she said.

“It also has a warm and positive message, which I hope will resonate with audiences.

Marinos commended Hopwood on the universal themes she explored within the script.

“Human emotions like love, hope, and happiness are universal; they don’t belong to any one section of society,” he said.

“Working with a diverse cast and crew is very much what contemporary Australia feels like to me.”

For Craig, the film reflected the need for the “Asian diaspora to see themselves portrayed in non-stereotyped roles”.

Hopwood is planning a theatrical release for The Gift That Gives later in 2023, for which she is in talks with distributors.