Bringing Diversity to Documentary

Logo for Kartemquin's Diverse Voices In Docs programI’m honored to have been accepted into the 6-month “Diverse Voices in Docs” program organized by Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop of Chicago. (see HuffPo article) Think of it as an incubator for emerging documentary filmmakers of color.

We’re now done with our very first session and I’ve been blown away by all the talent in the room. So much experience. So much wisdom. We wasted no time on day one. Tasked with introducing everyone to our works-in-progress within 5 minutes, I took the leap to turn an idea that’s been in my head for months, into reality. I’m excited about highlighting and exploring a much heavily praised aspect of Singapore with folks here in Chicago.

Adventures In Learning

The documentary I’m going to be working on throughout the course of the program and beyond will shine a spotlight on innovation in the classroom, before teens enter university. Areas of interest include classrooms that incorporate social entrepreneurship, environmental sustainability, or global citizenship.

Driving Force

The interest in these new curriculums and teaching methods really stem from my experience of growing up in a very “exam-driven” educational system, where school was more about learning to get the good grades than it was about learning… actually learning. I remember feeling like a fish out of water when I first stepped into the classrooms at Northwestern University. “You mean you actually wanna hear my opinion?” And also in constant awe of the number of fellow students around me who truly believed they could change the world.

Research Research Research

I’d like to follow stories both in Singapore and in Chicago. If the above resonates with you, I’d love to chat. In this initial research stage, I’m seeking people who’ve done academic studies on the education systems in Singapore and the US, and those who are directly involved in either education system, whether as a teacher, an administrator, or even as a student with an opinion to share.
At this point, I’m still searching for the right points to cover, characters to follow, and stories to tell. Know someone who fits the bill? Send him/her my way.
Journey With Me
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Marshall’s Memories… the making of

For our final RTVF 380 project, Marshall, Jory, Jane and I had initialy conceptualized a piece about the state of communication in today’s world, where it can be superficial and distilled, stripped of the richness of personal connection in electronic media. Marshall's Memories ShootPeople can be so close (in proximity) and yet so far away (on an emotional level). We wanted to tell it through the story of a lonely guy finds himself engaged in communication on a far deeper level through letters in a bottle.

We just learned to shoot with the Arriflex BL-16, a pretty cool, but kinda awkwardly-shaped and heavy 16mm film camera.The first major hurdle to using this camera, was learning to load film into the magazine in complete darkness. It’s difficult enough threading the film through the little nooks and crannies of the equipment when you can see it during practice! Doing it completely blind in a changing bag to avoid accidental light exposure was definitely a challenge.

Marshall's Memories Shoot 3We shot this in 16 hours. Got ourselves out of bed at 4am so we could have a beautiful sunrise backdrop on north beach. Mother nature didn’t seem to like our idea and decided to make it a cloudy day. Since we had no car and no dolly, our trusty dorm shopping cart served as both equipment transport and as a moving seat for me as i held the camera.

We waited for the evening magic hour to shoot our last scene so we’d have sunlight shining through the multi-colored glass bottles that lined theMarshall's Memories Shoot2 windowsill to cast pretty colors onto the table.

We also experimented shooting a long take at 12fps so it’d have a sped-up effect after film processing. It turned out pretty well, considering we were racing against time to get the shot before daylight went away.

Overall, a great experience!

Encore Screening

There has been demand for a second screening of Beyond The Drive, so I’m putting one together tonight. At the same time, I’m doing a little experiment to test out the power of word-of-mouth publicity by asking people who came to the first screening last week to let their friends know about tonight if they think they’ll benefit from watching the movie. I deliberately kept away from listserv or facebook advertising. So in other words, I have no idea how many people are going to show up tonight. This will be interesting! :)

I also had a good chat with Michael about ways to possibly market the documentary later on. But I’ve gotta take things one step at a time… still need to find a composer to create original music so i can take out those Apple loop music tracks… someone willing to help a poor college student out pro bono. Ideas anyone?