Tag Archives: documentary production

November 29, 2014 — Year in Review (Part 2 — New York in June)

New York in June could only be made pos­si­ble by the hos­pi­tal­i­ty of long­time friend Peer Just. A free place to stay in New York meant that I could fun­nel some of our funds towards film­ing two cru­cial inter­views with Asian Amer­i­can schol­ar Judy Wu and the award-win­ning author Danke Li. Both pro­vid­ed impor­tant insights into Li Ling-Ai’s moti­va­tions and how World War II trans­formed the every­day lives of women in both the Unit­ed States and Chi­na. Answer­ing the last-minute call for cam­era help were our New York go-to DP Frank Ayala and anoth­er long­time friend Ruth Bonomo.

Leaving NYC home base for a day of production on Long Island -- first the subway, then the train, then the ferry.

Leav­ing NYC home base for a day of pro­duc­tion on Long Island — first the sub­way, then the train, then the fer­ry.

 

Judy Wu, author of DR. MOM CHUNG, took time out from her Port Jefferson vacation to sit for a great interview. Ruth Bonomo pitched in as DP on short notice, providing wheels, camera and lights. Judy's family fed us a great spaghetti dinner beachside. Signing K for KUKAN!

Judy Wu, author of DR. MOM CHUNG, took time out from her Port Jef­fer­son vaca­tion to sit for a great inter­view. Ruth Bonomo pitched in as DP on short notice, pro­vid­ing wheels, cam­era and lights. Judy’s fam­i­ly fed us a great spaghet­ti din­ner beach­side. Sign­ing K for KUKAN!

 

DP Frank Ayala with Danke Li, author of ECHOES OF CHONGQING, WOMEN IN WARTIME CHINA

DP Frank Ayala with Danke Li, author of ECHOES OF CHONGQING, WOMEN IN WARTIME CHINA

 

A vis­it to New York also meant I got to hang out with Calami­ty Chang, who has vol­un­teered to record tem­po­rary voice over lines that allow us to edit our his­tor­i­cal scenes. Calami­ty con­stant­ly inspires me by her will­ing­ness to embrace her per­for­mance instincts and bare it all in her won­der­ful­ly tongue-in-cheek bur­lesque shows. She also knows her Chi­nese his­to­ry and pro­motes projects like ours that bring it to the fore­front. Her musician/photographer hus­band Mike Webb put in hours of free time as our sound man while dog Chewie qui­et­ly put up with our intru­sion. After a super long record­ing ses­sion on a sun­ny Sun­day after­noon, we all need­ed a New York spe­cial­ty cock­tail.

 

Going over scripts with Calamity Chang.

Going over scripts with Calami­ty Chang.

 

Musician and Photographer Mike Webb pitches in as sound man to record our temporary voice over tracks.

Musi­cian and Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Mike Webb pitch­es in as sound man to record our tem­po­rary voice over tracks.

 

Chewie after a long recording session

Chewie after a long record­ing ses­sion

 

One of the killer cocktails I had in NYC featuring cucumber and gin

One of the killer cock­tails I had in NYC fea­tur­ing cucum­ber and gin

 

Just being in NYC is a real shot in the arm for a film­mak­er. Visu­al stim­u­la­tion is every­where and so are oth­er artists whose very exis­tence and work are like cheers from the side­lines.

 

Inspiration from Steven Salmieri and his wife Sydney Michelle

Inspi­ra­tion from Steven Salmieri and his wife Syd­ney Michelle

 

Inspiration from artist, hat designer and jewelry maker Carol Markel

Inspi­ra­tion from artist, hat design­er and jew­el­ry mak­er Car­ol Markel

 

Inspiration from my husband Paul Levitt who is designing a book with Dana Martin about his visit with Man Ray

Inspi­ra­tion from my hus­band Paul Levitt who is design­ing a book with Dana Mar­tin about his vis­it with Man Ray

 

More inspiration from a screening and Q&A with D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus

More inspi­ra­tion from a screen­ing and Q&A with D.A. Pen­nebak­er and Chris Hege­dus

 

Before my New York trip I got word that I received a fel­low­ship to go to Chi­na to join a group of high school edu­ca­tors form Cana­da and New Jer­sey on a World War II cen­tered study tour. It would be my first trip there, so Chi­na was on my mind.

 

Looking ahead to China in July at the Ai Wei Wei exhibit in Brooklyn

Look­ing ahead to Chi­na in July at the Ai Wei Wei exhib­it in Brook­lyn

 

Imagining China

Imag­in­ing Chi­na

 

China Kitsch

Chi­na Kitsch

 

Li Ling-Ai’s spir­it is also close at hand when I am in NYC. Her great friend Lar­ry Wil­son offered to point out the third floor apart­ment where she spent most of her life on West 55th street. The breeze picked up and the trees out­side the apart­ment did a dance as we looked up to the third floor.

 

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December 5–10, 2011 — LA Production Shoot

My main rea­son for trav­el­ing to LA was to inter­view Li Ling-Ai’s nephew Andrew Li who was a young boy of 8, liv­ing in Nanking when Rey Scott and Li Ling-Ai began pre-pro­duc­tion for KUKAN.

Photo of Robin Lung talking to Andrew Li

Ann Kaneko films FINDING KUKAN direc­tor Robin Lung meet­ing with Li Ling-Ai’s nephew Andrew Li.

I hoped to find out more infor­ma­tion from Andrew about Ling-Ai’s con­nec­tions in Chi­na at the time. Though I was able to gath­er some valu­able infor­ma­tion from my inter­view, the 5 days in LA turned out to be about so much more — a lot of it behind the scenes stuff that will nev­er make it into the doc­u­men­tary.

Get­ting to know the tal­ent­ed film­mak­er Ann Kaneko was one of the unex­pect­ed bonus­es of the trip. Thanks to gen­er­ous dona­tions from ear­ly FINDING KUKAN sup­port­ers, I was able to hire Ann for a cou­ple of days as my LA Direc­tor of Pho­tog­ra­phy. Hav­ing a dp with a real inter­est in the project and expe­ri­ence with both edit­ing and being a char­ac­ter in her own films was invalu­able.

Photo of Ann Kaneko with Julio and Ceiba

Ann Kaneko with Julio and Cei­ba

Wit­ness­ing Ann bal­anc­ing her ded­i­ca­tion to her work with the demands of rais­ing her 8‑month old daugh­ter Cei­ba was a real inspi­ra­tional shot-in-the-arm too.

Andrew Li inspects photographs

Andrew Li inspects pho­tographs

As I lunched with Andrew Li, his daugh­ters Por­tia and Quin­cy, and his wife Gil­da I got a sense of the rich life Li Ling-Ai had beyond KUKAN and the pro­found rip­ple effect that per­son­al sto­ries can have through time and space.

Photo of the Reading Room of the Margaret Herrick Library

John Zain­er talks to Ed Carter in front of the $500,000 King Kong poster that dec­o­rates the Mar­garet Her­rick Library’s read­ing room.

 

Film­ing B‑roll scenes of Ed Carter at the Mar­garet Her­rick Library intro­duced me to this gor­geous build­ing and amaz­ing film his­to­ry resource for the first time (I am already think­ing of excus­es to return to spend more leisure­ly hours there).

Photo of Ann Kaneko and Rebecca Bozzo in Margaret Herrick Library

Ann Kaneko and Rebec­ca Boz­zo prep for a shoot at the Mar­garet Her­rick Library

It also gave me an excuse to hook up with the peren­ni­al­ly upbeat Rebec­ca Boz­zo again. Bec­ca is a ded­i­cat­ed young film­mak­er who shares a pas­sion for old movies and has been a FINDING KUKAN sup­port­er from almost day one.

photo of Dan & Denise Levenick with Robin Lung

Dan & Denise Lev­enick with Robin Lung

Dan & Denise Lev­enick invit­ed me to their home in Pasade­na to view their moth­er’s home movies and pho­tographs of 1930s Hawaii. Besides giv­ing me anoth­er rea­son to mar­vel at the gen­eros­i­ty and kind­ness of strangers, Dan and Denise pro­vid­ed me with pre­cious “before-my-time” knowl­edge of my home town.

Photo of AMPAS Preservationist Joe Lindner

AMPAS Preser­va­tion­ist Joe Lind­ner describes how curled the KUKAN film print is.

Talk­ing to AMPAS Pres­re­va­tion­ist Joe Lind­ner about the ardu­ous process of restor­ing KUKAN gave me new insights into the pre­cious nature of old film, the his­toric val­ue that even old home movies have, and the galling num­ber of films that have been destroyed by time.

Photo of Ille-Heid Zainer

Ille-Heid Zain­er and her fresh baked bread.

photo of John Zainer

John Zain­er’s 1971 VW Van was the per­fect LA pro­duc­tion vehi­cle.


Final­ly my hosts in LA, John and Ille-Heid Zan­er, pro­vid­ed me with an inti­mate view of what liv­ing in LA can be like, invit­ing me to neigh­bor­hood par­ties, pro­vid­ing home-cooked meals after long days of shoot­ing, chauf­fer­ing me around in vin­tage vehi­cles, and shar­ing Ille’s sis­ter Elke’s amaz­ing Christ­mas cook­ies with me.

Elke’s Cook­ies

The result is that after my 5‑day pro­duc­tion shoot in LA, a city that I once had a very low opin­ion of, I can’t wait to go back.

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July 11–16 Road Trip to Kennesaw & Tallahassee

Director Robin Lung behind the camera

Direc­tor Robin Lung films in Geor­gia

I was a more than a lit­tle ner­vous as I pre­pared for a trip to Geor­gia and Flori­da to meet descen­dants of KUKAN cam­era­man Rey Scott for the first time.  I was plan­ning to spend a week with Rey Scot­t’s grand­daugh­ter artist Michelle Scott and take a long road trip with her from her home in Ken­ne­saw, Geor­gia to her uncle’s house in Tal­la­has­see.  Michelle was on a mis­sion to find more of her grand­fa­ther’s pho­tographs and learn as much as she could about what he was like as a per­son.  I want­ed to tag along to doc­u­ment her search and poke around myself for addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion about Li Ling-Ai.
Michelle Scott in her studio.

Michelle Scott with a few paint­ings from her KUKAN series

As I packed my suit­case I wor­ried that since Michelle and I did­n’t real­ly know each oth­er the trip could be a total fias­co.  For­tu­nate­ly Michelle and the rest of the Scott fam­i­ly were so open­heart­ed and sup­port­ive that I felt instant­ly com­fort­able after meet­ing them and the trip was more suc­cess­ful than I could have imag­ined.   Wit­ness­ing Michelle’s pas­sion for her art and her com­mit­ment to pre­serv­ing her grand­fa­ther’s lega­cy infused me with new ener­gy to face all of the tedious things that go along with doc­u­men­tary film­mak­ing (like log­ging and tran­scrib­ing footage and writ­ing grant pro­pos­als).

Ray Scott

Ray Scott relax­es before inter­view.

I real­ize that gain­ing access to peo­ple and places out­side of my every­day com­fort zone is one of the immea­sur­able rewards of this process.  I’m look­ing for­ward to what the next road trip will bring me.

Mark Scott and Michelle Scott examine Rey Scott's cameras

Mark Scott and Michelle Scott exam­ine Rey Scot­t’s cam­eras as cam­era­man Kevin Deyo films the scene.

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July 10, 2011 Preparing for an Independent Shoot & Finding a Great Camera Store in NYC

A cou­ple of months ago I pur­chased a Pana­son­ic GH2 to take on my trip to NYC and Atlanta so that I could shoot some inter­views and footage of artist Michelle Scott — the tal­ent­ed grand­daugh­ter of KUKAN cam­era­man Rey Scott. As with most new cam­eras, it’s a learn as you go and make mis­takes process.  The sec­ond day in NYC, I had my bat­tery go out in a test inter­view and got a cor­rupt­ed mts file on the SD card (techie lan­guage for a screwup that you do not want to hap­pen dur­ing the real thing). I decid­ed I need­ed an AC adap­tor for the cam­era — that should be easy enough in the big apple shop­ping capi­tol, right?

Sur­prise, sur­prise, the two biggest cam­era stores in Man­hat­tan were out of stock. For­tu­nate­ly, I dis­cov­ered Alex & Tony at H & B Dig­i­tal on 46th Street. Not only did they have the part, but they were the sweet­est sales­men that I’ve run across in a long time. They patient­ly looked up how the adap­tor worked, let me test it, and then spent almost an hour advis­ing me about fil­ters and giv­ing me a pep talk about doing a shoot on my own — some­thing I have to face when the bud­get won’t tol­er­ate hir­ing a larg­er crew.

Tony & Alex at H & B Dig­i­tal

So if you find your­self in NYC with cam­era needs, check Alex and Tony out on 46th St. They are a small shop, but well-stocked and have great prices too. Most of all they have a pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy & film­ing and seem to love what they do.

H & B Digital storefront

H & B Dig­i­tal store­front

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