Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

Archive for July 2010


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We all have those days when we feel very alone.  (Right?)

Some of my closest girl friends have moved out of the city.  Most of my male and female friends have significant others and seem to be spending more and more time with those significant others.  With someone that I care about living across the pond, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the balance everyone tries so hard to maintain.

I question whether I have made enough of an effort to maintain the relationships I have with people. For most of my friends and I, we are at that age when people start to drift apart because of different schedules, maturity, more responsibilities.  It’s fine.  I understand it.  I embrace it most of the time.

But then, there are nights like these.  I know what people are doing around me.  I can do those things too.  Yet, I feel like I need to sit and think.  I need to feel okay about how things are and what the bigger picture is.  I’m meeting up with a friend later, but I feel completely restless right now.  I’ve been sitting here for the last hour, just stumped.

I’ve always been somewhat of a loner.  Regardless of how many friends I seem to have or acquaintances I know or people that would vouch for me, I find myself alone a lot of the time.   Have I been a bad friend?  Do I keep too much of a distance with people?  Do people feel like they don’t know me?  The answer might be yes to all of those questions.

It’s hard to know how people perceive you. Sure, you have somewhat of an image projected in your head of what they might see and what they might think.  But you truly never know unless you are them.

It doesn’t really matter.  It’s figuring out what you think of yourself and being okay with it that matters.


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July 30, 2010 at 8:59 pm

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Why Fernando?

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Today, I met Joey and Fernando at Palomino for a late lunch.  When Fernando got up from the table to use the restroom, Joey pulled his chair closer to me and asked, “So, why Fernando?”

Let me tell you the back story.  I had met Fernando through my roommate, James, a few years ago.  James works with one of Fernando’s roommates and would get us together for occasional dinners.  Sometimes, I wasn’t able to make it.  For example – Fernando, Richard, and Antonio make it a habit of inviting flocks of friends over for annual Bay 2 Breakers and Pride celebrations.  I had never been able to make it over the last three or four years due to weddings and graduations happening on those very weekends.  However, every time we shared a meal, I learned 10 things about him I did not know before.  In my mind, I tucked away these notes and thought, one day, someone is going to make a movie about his life.

After coming back from Asia and enrolling at BDFI, I was given a final assignment for the night program.  Make a 3-5 minute short on anything I want.  It could be any genre.  (I had shot a lot of footage of my ex-boyfriend’s mother’s political campaign earlier this year, but I went into that experiment not knowing a thing about filmmaking and the planning process involved.)  I knew that Fernando had the most potential to be the subject for a mini film.  When I approached him, he was almost as excited as I was.  He’s been the subject of numerous TV and online interviews, has networked and broken bread with some of the most influential and respected elected officials in SF, and is not shy about who he is and what he stands for.  At the time of proposing the project idea, I did not know that he had been diagnosed with HIV.  I only discovered this when we met to talk more about his involvement and activism with the Latino AIDS community.  As for Joey, he has a significant past he’d like to share with us, as well.

My goal for this project is to make people feel something when they watch it.  I’m hoping to change someone’s views and attitudes.  Fernando and I agreed that HIV/AIDS is still taboo in more conservative Latino and Asian conversations.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  (Even my own family has concerns with my involvement with this story.  The irony.)

So, I asked Ling, whom I report to at the Korematsu Institute if she could show me a sample treatment she has used for past projects.  Ling continues to blow my mind every day with her accomplishments (at such a young age), unfathomable memory, and relentless work ethic.  Well, I don’t know her actual age, but she looks so young…  I did, however, come across this great site put together by a guy who completed his first documentary project and what he learned from that experience.  Really good insight into the costs (time, money, blood, sweat) that went into that labor of love.

Is it too hopeful to think that the anticipated frustrations will be outweighed by the rewards of going through with this project?

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July 30, 2010 at 12:39 am

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We have 2 weeks until the shoot.  The pre-production meeting is next Thursday, and I’ve yet to sit down to actually write a treatment/shot list for the project.  (I’ve been told we may not need a treatment since it’s going to be a short, but I can’t help feeling like we would be walking onto the set blind without one…)  Meeting with Fernando and Joey on Thursday for lunch to talk about Joey’s part in the project.  I don’t know how we’re going to fit everything into a 15-20 minute project.  The thought of this makes me nervous.

On another note, I’m not sure what to do in terms of work.  I’m only working 1, sometimes 2 nights a week, and living in SF is not getting less expensive.  Actually, the more projects I’m involved in, the more events I attend, the more I spend on commuting, eating out, …you get the picture.  There are so many opportunities out there, but it seems like they are either unpaid or I don’t yet have enough technical experience to justify taking them on.  I’m not sure how long I can intern, freelance, and pay for school without feeling operationally incompetent working only 1 – 2 nights a week, if that.  In a perfect world, I would find a part-time job working alongside a documentary filmmaker who only needs me from M-F between 1:30 and 6pm and weekends between 10am and 6pm.  Keep dreaming, Winnie.

How do people in the film/media industry manage their time so that they are active, fed, well-rested, AND have time to knock off a few items on their reading list?  At the rate things are going, I can’t even imagine going a day without checking my Google calendar…

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July 26, 2010 at 11:29 pm

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July 22, 2010 at 3:35 pm

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Pre-Production Entry #2

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Yesterday before my editing class, I went to Fernando’s Hayes Valley house to shoot some b roll and discuss the details of our main shoot day next month.  He agreed on the date and time I proposed, Aug. 8th from 10am-7pm, and also agreed to allow myself, the DP (Yusef) and Producer (Amie) to hold a pre-production meeting there on the 5th.  During the pre-production meeting, we will do a walk through of the house to talk about a shot list and determine where we’ll want to set up the camera and hold majority of the “storytelling.”  The lighting will be tricky since there are some parts of the house that are very dark and some rooms that get a lot of natural light from the large windows.  I’m hoping since we have a few experienced students on the shoot, we’ll be able to figure out ideal settings for an aesthetically pleasing, yet authentic “look.”

As with most everything in this line of business, initial plans are changed at the last minute.  This is to be expected.  When I was at Fernando’s, he mentioned wanting to bring a special friend into the picture.  After he described their relationship and what it has meant for the both of them, I agreed.  I am a little worried about the amount of time we have to shoot and the extent of content we will be delving into.  Because Fernando is someone who is not shy around a camera, I don’t think we’ll have a problem re: lack of content.  However, when I recorded b roll yesterday, he was noticeably different in his demeanor.  We were talking for about 45 min. about his past when he started tearing up, and I thought, “Shouldn’t I be getting this on camera?”  When I switched on the HVX, he sort of fell into a more charming role.  I was a little disappointed because I wanted him to act more like he would when we talk one-on-one.  But then again, it’s rare when someone can be completely themselves on camera.

What I did learn was that I should have brought a tripod.  After holding the 7-10 lb camera for 40 minutes (1 P2 card records approximately 40 min. of footage, depending on whether you’re using the motor zoom), my arms were sore, and I was starting to waver.  I ran out of storage on the card before getting everything I wanted, but I think it was a productive meeting.  He gave me some news articles and old photos to take home to review what we might include in the movie.  I asked him to choose 3-5 songs that were meaningful to him so we could listen to them and perhaps choose one that might be appropriate for the soundtrack.  To me, sound and music are crucial in a movie .

As for the next steps, I’ll be doing some research on the topic of the piece – living with HIV.  After gathering facts to present in the story, I should start looking into craft services for the shoot day, getting other talent and location releases signed (if we’ll be filming at Project Open Hand and the SF AIDS Foundation), securing all the equipment we’ll need, and creating the call sheet with Amie.  There are numerous things we need to work on before next month, and I cannot say that I am not intimidated by the Final Cut Pro assignment due next Tuesday.  Wanting to feel comfortable with FCP is mainly why I decided to do this program before the Multimedia masters this fall at the AAU.  I find that this has been the most challenging portion of the curriculum so far.

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July 21, 2010 at 9:09 am

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Playing with fire

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Is it just me or do people look at you funny when you eat or drink alone at 4:30pm on a Friday?  After getting a text from my manager at Yoshi’s encouraging me to start my weekend early, I walked down to Polk with no book in hand, no Mac in bag, and no plan, in general.

When I sat down at one of Parilla’s front patio tables, (Parilla is a South American restaurant that serves tapas and a mean happy hour), the server asked me what I wanted to order.

“A glass of red wine sangria, please.”

“You might as well order a pitcher since it’s only a few dollars more.”

He was handsome and had a thick Latin accent, so naturally I said, “Sure, why not?  Is it bad if it’s just me drinking an entire pitcher?”

“You don’t have to finish it….”

“It’d be a waste if I didn’t.”

So, out comes a full pitcher of red wine sangria.  It had been gray and cold all of that morning, but sitting there in the afternoon, the sun had finally come out to greet San Francisco.  What could be better than having a glass of sangria in one hand, a local paper in another, and not having any deadlines or commitments for the rest of the night?

After having made myself comfortable for 20 minutes, a blond man with piercing blue eyes, probably in his early 40s, stopped in front of my table and asked whether I’d mind if he shared the table with me.  He spoke with a thick accent too.  This time, I guessed he was from France.  He wasn’t.  He was from Russia, with love.

After initial small talk that gave me the impression of his nature to be a compulsive liar, he began to ambiguously tell me what he does for work.  The music industry.  Promotional work.  His younger friend, who joined us later, said no more than 5 words throughout the entire two hours we sat at that table.  The conversation was taking a mysterious turn.  The way this man answered my questions led me to believe there was a lot more underneath the surface.

When he found out that I owned a bike, he asked if I would join him for a ride sometime.  Up until this point, I hadn’t mentioned I was in a long distance relationship.  So, I told him we should get a group to go sometime.  We exchanged information, and he and his friend gave me a ride to where I was meeting a friend for dinner.

I got a text a few days ago from this man.  Being curious about his enigmatic past, I Googled him.  It turns out my intuition was right.  There was a SF Bay Guardian article detailing his accused “ties to the Russian mafia” and the immigration battle he was/may still be facing with the U.S. government.  A former front-line soldier in Afghanistan accused of three civilian murders in Russia, a formerly jailed suspect being monitored by the Dept. of Homeland Security.  And I was laughing and chatting with him over sangria on a sunny Friday afternoon.  According to the article, he claims he was simply a victim due to vocalized opposition to his country’s transition to capitalism.

There are always two sides to a story, if not more.  I can’t help but want to know more about his side.

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July 14, 2010 at 10:34 am

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Pre-Production: Entry #1

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And his name was Fernando…

No, I’m not referring to the ballad made famous by 4 feather-haired, bell bottom wearing Swedes, all of whom became members of one big orgy of divorce later on in life.  I’m talking about the subject of my first student film – a short documentary that’s supposed to be 3-5 minutes, but will (realistically) extend to become a longer piece.

I won’t say much about Fernando Castillo just yet, except to express that he is one extraordinary human being.  I just asked my instructor’s TA, Amie Morelli, to be my Assistant Director, as I’ve decided I want to Direct /Produce/Edit this piece myself.  (A 4th semester student scolded me when I told him I would take on both roles for D&P, but when I explained I had already secured the location, the talent (in this case, Fernando), and would be taking care of some of the other logistics, it made more sense.  It’s also a little different for documentaries, depending on what or who you are making your film about.  It makes it easier that I have a personal relationship with Fernando, having known him over the last few years.)

Back to developing the crew.  Amie is going to be fantastic.  She has been insightful, offering constant feedback during class, seems available when help is needed, and is invested in pursuing more experience on other students’ projects.  Excited to have her on board.  (It also helps that she’s a lawyer…never a bad idea to have a lawyer on your side, especially in the film business.)

Just got a response from Yusef Haroun, a music video director I asked to DP (Director of Photography) for the shoot.  He’s a 2nd semester student who came highly recommended by my screenwriting instructor and by Amie.  I had sent him a note last Thursday to see if he might have interest in getting involved with the project and lending his skills for cinematography.  He said Yes.  The fact that he’s in the middle of multiple projects led to me be concerned that he wouldn’t have time to participate in my project, but things are starting to fall into place.  Location and talent release forms have been signed.  I just need a few more positive responses for roles in lighting, sound, PA, what else?  Waiting to hear back from others in my class to see who’s available/interested.  What’s nice about this program is everyone wants to participate in everyone else’s projects.  It’s invaluable to take on various roles and have these experiences reflected on your reel at the end of the summer.  (Tonight, I was asked to be script supervisor on another 2nd semester student’s film.  I’ve heard it’s one of the more challenging roles on a set, especially with little to no experience, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.)

Meeting with Fernando again on the 20th.  This time, we’ll be looking at old photo albums, documents, and artwork from his past.  Planning to bring an audio recorder and the HVX to get some shots of the photos.  When I went over to his house this past Sunday, I had no idea I’d be staying for 4 hours.  After taking stills of the windows, hallways, rooms, doors in his house, the garden, natural lighting, we sat down for  a group dinner over wine and his homemade “dirty rice.”  I haven’t loaded up on that large of an amount of carbs since my first half marathon in ’08.  It was great.  Got to know his former lover/current housemate a little better, the housemate’s brother visiting from Minneapolis en route from a road trip through the US, their neighbor who was married to a woman for many years before recently coming out…what a gang.

I also dropped in for an extra 3 hr cinematography class after interning today.  The day program instructor, Mike Maley, was BRILLIANT.  Not only was he dynamic in the classroom, he gave us a wealth of information pertaining to correct lighting, tips & tricks, what NOT to do.  So crucial to making a scene or actor look good, let alone believable.  Plan to sit in on future classes if I can make it over in time.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Exhausted.

Written by winniewongsf

July 14, 2010 at 1:28 am

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