Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

Archive for August 2010

Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain

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Allez à la chambre à coucher, Miss Poulain. Très bien, Amélie, ma fille. Vous n’avez pas des os de verre, comme moi, vous pouvez frapper contre la vie. Si vous laissez échapper cette occasion, puis, au fil du temps, c’est votre cœur qui va devenir aussi sec et fragile que mes os Alors. Allez-y! Pour l’amour du Christ!

The trick is to find someone whose quirks are as crazy as yours. And to let go.


Written by winniewongsf

August 31, 2010 at 11:24 pm

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Almost September

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I had about a week to edit the Sunday footage from two weeks ago into a 3-5 minute trailer.  Having worked on other students’ sets for two days and attended the two-day Outside Lands right before our final week of BDFI, it was, needless to say, a hectic time.  I may have alienated a friend or two due to lack of sleep resulting in mood swings, explosions of outrage, and other outward symptoms of anxiety usually expressed by women during their premenstrual week.

I stayed up all night that Monday in one of the editing suites at the Saul Zaentz Media Center (where BDFI is located) and submitted my trailer at 4:30am that Tuesday morning.  (It was strange being around other students at that time in the morning, gave me flashbacks of falling asleep on a pile of books in the RBR at UCSB’s main library during undergrad days.)  I should have first sent Mark what I was planning to submit prior to dropping it off, since he gave me very specific feedback the next day before the screening.  I practically begged the director at BDFI to let me submit my revised work on Wednesday morning, which he did.  The original cut had noticeable sound issues, needed color correction, and was missing a few sound bytes that would’ve helped communicate Fernando’s plight to the audience.  Was a lot more satisfied with the final submission after having made the fixes.

The screening and BDFI graduation for 4th semester students was held last Wednesday night on the 3rd Fl of our building, where the Alan Splet Theater is located.  All of the full-time day students, as well as night students attended, and some brought guests.  It was good to see people outside of our normal environment.  Usually, the students are running around the 2nd floor halls trying to source equipment, look for open editing suites, carrying take-out boxes of food, ready to pull all-nighters in order to meet project deadlines.  That night, people actually looked like they had lives outside of the school.  Imagine that.

I was impressed with some of the plots in the shorts that were screened.  Two to note were Messiah by the very charming (and handsome) Yossi Amit and Dr. Grass by NYU acting alum Ari Segal.  Original concepts with very creative writing – I could see potential steaming from the screen.  Wish them well on developing these into feature lengths.

My own trailer screened earlier on in the evening, as I gripped the armrests at my sides.  Something about the critical eyes of film students puts me at unease. I wanted to crawl into my peers’ heads and know exactly what they thought after watching the 4 minute work-in-progress clip.  It seemed to receive a warm applause, so at least that’s a good sign (or just a sign of respect).  During a later intermission, a few students and their guests did make positive comments to me about the clip and mentioned wanting to see more.  Guess that was the goal.

There is a week and a half before the masters program at AAU begins.  I’ll be working a few nights at Yoshi’s this week and actually enjoying some free time (outside of the internship and meetings for Fighting Sail, a TV doc series I’m involved in) before Fernando gets back from Boston on the 30th.  Once he’s back, we plan to do a few shoots at the SF AIDS Foundation and Project Open Hand.  I’ll need to look for people to help crew for those shoots (not to mention equipment), so it’s sort of starting from square one all over again.  At least I feel like I know what I’m doing now and know where to start.  It’s a good feeling.

Here’s the work-in-progress trailer:

Enjoy, and feel free to comment!

Written by winniewongsf

August 23, 2010 at 3:33 pm

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Death becomes him

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Tonight was going to be a night of celebration.  Celebrating a Father’s day gift.  Celebrating the end of my intensive night program at BDFI.  Celebrating the fact that it was actually a warm summer day in the Bay area.

My parents and I drove down to Saratoga to attend a Swell Season concert at the Mountain Winery.  I had never seen the group perform and really wanted to share the experience with my parents who don’t usually go to concerts in the States.  An unknown band opened for them and played for the first hour.  Glen and Marketa finally came on a little before nine.  After performing for about an hour, Glen was getting the audience more involved and having us sing along to this tune they’d made up.  Without warning, a large dark object fell onto the front of the stage with a thud.  My mom and I jumped and thought a light fixture had fallen from the above railing, almost nailing Glen.  It took a few seconds to register that it had actually been a body that had fallen.  We suspected he was part of the lighting crew and was trying to adjust the lights up above.  Glen immediately reacted by putting his guitar down and rushing to the body before stepping away and putting his hands on top of his head looking absolutely horrified.  Several people from the audience, we discovered later were doctors and nurses, rushed to the body and tried to resuscitate him.  They tried this for over 30 minutes, but it didn’t seem effective at all.

A staff member with a microphone first asked if anyone could identify the man.  No one claimed to know him.  Then, we were ordered to stay at the venue but gather in the plaza, so as to give room to the emergency vehicle that would be arriving and taking the body away.  We waited for another 30 minutes before being permitted to walk back to our cars.

I could not believe that a man just attempted suicide in front of 2,000 of people like that and succeeded.  I have never witnessed anything like it and feel disturbed, saddened, all the while curious about who this man was and his intentions for taking away his own life in such a public way.  I feel sorry for all who witnessed the event and for whomever he left behind.

Written by winniewongsf

August 20, 2010 at 2:06 am

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Shared via SF’s HIV Story Project

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An article caught my eye earlier;  it’s an account of an individual’s story about discovering his HIV status upon arrival in Saudi Arabia and the deportation and discrimination he faced immediately thereafter.  Reminds me of a conversation I had with Fernando last month about the countries that still bar the entry of those who are tested positive. Embarrassing to note that the U.S. and China are just two of the few countries that recently lifted their travel restrictions in this category.

HIV victims positively unwelcome

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August 16, 2010 at 2:16 pm

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What I would do to tour with this group (and document it)

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I’ve been reading people’s reactions to seeing Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros perform live in other parts of the world.  Their words sum up my experience watching them at GG Park during Outside Lands yesterday :

“I was enraptured… mesmerized… perhaps even brainwashed into a place where I couldn’t help but smile. I felt like I had just gone to church. Not MY church, of course. This church smelled of BO and Beer not incense and grandma. This church was housed in a paint chipped theatre where the only seating option was the floor. The sweat dripped off of the walls as much as it did your forehead.

Was it another time… another dimension? I SWEAR I was in a retro tent REVIVAL. Was I transported from a space lost in the chasms of time?

Ima Robot’s Alex Ebert heads the cult (excuse me, I meant band) with a charismatic and clever edge. Imagine Charles Manson if he had been a Rock Star instead of a mass murderer. And his band mates continue the tale with smiles the size of grapefruit. Quirkiness is obviously encouraged and reflected in the instrumentation. Guitar, bass, keyboards, a trumpet, an accordion, a ukulele, an upright piano, and a xylophone perched precariously alongside all added to the cacophony. With about a dozen members in the band their presence alone created an instant party.

The experience is almost like watching a movie… characters intermingling on stage and in the audience. They already have a bevy of followers who imitate, with gratitude, their carefully crafted carefree ‘lifestyle’. They perform whirlwind dances, wear a haphazard wardrobe, and create perfectly tangled pony tailed manes.”

“They’re a mixture of the real and not real, of a staged experience and the authentic, they evoke possibilities beyond our own inevitable ones. And for that they point to the world we all crave.”

Fiya Wata


Written by winniewongsf

August 16, 2010 at 11:37 am

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Post pro

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Stopped by Fernando’s house before class tonight to make sure he was okay after such a long day yesterday.  When I pulled into his driveway, he was chatting animatedly with his neighbor, absolutely glowing.  I had woken up this morning worried about whether we had pushed him too far or whether we should have given him more breaks between takes.  I knew he was exhausted and ready for us to be out at the end of the day.

When he saw me, he motioned for me to go over and meet his neighbor.  “This is the person who came over to film me yesterday. I was just telling him that I was wired after you all left last night.  I didn’t go to bed until 1 because I felt like I was on a high!  Everyone was so wonderful.  I felt very comfortable with them here.”  I was so happy to hear those words coming out of his mouth.  I had even brought special doggie treats for his two dachshunds since they had to be kept in a room away from the crew for fear of endless barking throughout the day.  I knew that was something that was bothering him yesterday, and we actually told him we wouldn’t mind them running around, but he thought it was a bad idea with all the lighting and wires and etc.

It does seem like Fernando is enjoying all this newfound fame…and I haven’t even started on the edit yet.  9 days left.  Sanity still intact.

Written by winniewongsf

August 9, 2010 at 11:50 pm

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In my last post, I said some things about an individual that probably sounded harsh.  While I don’t have regrets regarding what I said, I do hope that this person took it as constructive criticism.

Yesterday turned out to be as smooth of a shoot day as any amateur director could have ask for.  Sure, Saturday was pure chaos with running last minute errands in the morning, crewing on another project during the day, and an equipment fiasco/mix-up during the latter part of the evening. BUT, everything worked itself out, and I finally got some sleep Saturday night.  *One thing I have learned is NEVER, EVER commit to being on a shoot if you don’t have enough sleep.  This is especially true when you are directing your own project.

Woke up early Sunday morning, drove to Berkeley to pick up some of the equipment around 7:30, met the crew at Fernando’s house by 9, and started the set-up process.  With only one hiccup (La Boulange’s manager forgot about the order he promised to put aside for me, so when Amie went to pick up the pastries, she had to raise some hell so that they would rush to put it together), we were off to a really good start.

It was difficult for me to get started, mainly because I really couldn’t gauge the extent of how much some of the questions would drain Fernando, emotionally.  (He’s done interviews before, but later on in the day, he revealed that they had never been this personal nor had they consisted of a full day of shooting.)  I started by asking him very basic questions, and luckily, his answers began to give depth into what he’s been through on a more intimate level.  It felt strange (and somewhat wrong) to be asking him certain things in a room full of people he did not know and had just met that morning.  To be so open about your personal experiences and hardships, I can only respect him and aspire to be that honest and brave.  I also know he wanted to go through with it because he has such an important message to communicate with the public.

We didn’t experience any technical issues (except for the fact that during the first data dump, we could not figure out how to transfer files with a USB connection – turns out we were in camera mode and not PC mode!), the crew was more than efficient, hard-working and so patient, I felt comfortable with the location and with Fernando, and we didn’t run into too many ambient noise issues.  It could be a different story when I go through the clips this week as I edit, but from what we could tell last night, we walked away with some amazing footage.

What’s exciting – Fernando talked about so many different things, I’m pretty sure we can turn this into a multi-faceted story, which is more than what we planned going in.  I have 9 days left to edit and polish off a rough cut before we screen at BDFI to the student body and faculty.  That is daunting.  With interning during the day, class at night, more shoots in between, and a two-day music festival this weekend, I am not seeing much sleep in my future.  I have to say though, this has been nothing but an incredible summer so far.  Yesterday was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and I felt so privileged to be able to work with such great people – especially my friend, Mark Bracamonte, who did an AMAZING job as DP and with such short notice.  Not only did he provide creative guidance for myself and Amie, he was reliable, so easy to work with, a joy to have around, and even brought a friend to help.  Could not be more grateful towards these guys.

Another thing I’ve realized since being assigned this project is how much I enjoy producing.  It’s mostly about making things happen and making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.  I find it exhilarating working with businesses in the community to secure resources, collaborating with the crew to make sure everyone has a role and is satisfied with what they’re responsible for, and the sense of accomplishment felt after a successful shoot.  It’s one of the most rewarding roles I’ve ever come across, if not frustrating, stressful, draining…

*All photos courtesy of Deirdre Straughan.

Written by winniewongsf

August 9, 2010 at 10:39 am

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