Tag Archives: Finding KUKAN

The Power of the Press, Part 2 — Roy Cummings

A blog in sup­port of FINDING KUKAN’s 10K in 10weeks “Keep This Film Alive Campaign”.

How was the pio­neer­ing female reporter May Day Lo con­nect­ed to KUKANs co-pro­duc­er Li Ling-Ai? Leads to that ques­tion had dried up for me a long time ago. Then last Novem­ber Hon­olu­lu Star-Adver­tis­er reporter Mike Gor­don wrote a big fea­ture arti­cle about FINDING KUKAN. I received a num­ber of enthu­si­as­tic emails about the arti­cle and one strange phone call.

I’m so mad!” Those were the first words Susan Cum­mings said to me. “I’m sure he knew her. If only he were still here, he could tell you.” She was refer­ring to her hus­band who was no longer alive. To tell you the truth, I thought Susan might be a rav­ing lunatic. But as we talked longer I real­ized that Susan’s late hus­band was Roy Cum­mings. He’d been a reporter at the Hon­olu­lu Adver­tis­er in 1937, the same year KUKAN’s direc­tor Rey Scott start­ed work­ing there. Like Rey Scott, he had roots in Mis­souri. Roy was also notable for try­ing to union­ize the Adver­tis­er at that time. Susan told me he was fired for doing so, was almost run over in a park­ing lot, and black­balled by the Hon­olu­lu Star-Bul­letin too. It would take Roy Cum­mings anoth­er 12 years to estab­lish the Hawaii News­pa­per Guild in 1949. He seemed just like the kind of guy that Rey Scott would grav­i­tate to.

Roy Cummings

Roy Cum­mings found­ed the Hawaii News­pa­per Guild in 1949 (pho­to cour­tesy of Hon­olu­lu Star-Bul­letin)

 

Coin­ci­den­tal­ly Roy’s first wife Mar­garet Kam had been a “per­son of inter­est” to me when I was try­ing to hunt down the real life inspi­ra­tions for the detec­tive Lily Wu. Because Mar­garet was a col­or­ful char­ac­ter too – a Chi­nese actress and reporter in Hawaii who had the gump­tion to mar­ry a white guy at a time when tra­di­tion­al Chi­nese fam­i­lies still frowned upon those things.

Margaret Kam (center) mans the all female copy desk at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin during WWII (courtesy Susan Cummings)

Mar­garet Kam (cen­ter) mans the all female copy desk at the Hon­olu­lu Star-Bul­letin dur­ing WWII (cour­tesy Susan Cum­mings)

 

Once I made the con­nec­tion, the con­ver­sa­tion with Susan start­ed spark­ing with names and sit­u­a­tions from Roy Cummings’s past. I men­tioned that I had been try­ing to find infor­ma­tion on the Star Bul­letin reporter May Day Lo, and Susan exclaimed, “May Day Lo was Roy’s first love!” It turns out that Roy and May Day went to jour­nal­ism school togeth­er in Mis­souri. Roy fell in love with May Day and fol­lowed her out to Hawaii.

May Day Lo and Roy Cummings (center) gather with fellow University of Missouri journalism students in downtown Columbia

May Day Lo and Roy Cum­mings (cen­ter) gath­er with fel­low Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri jour­nal­ism stu­dents in down­town Colum­bia

 

Now I was the one who was mad that Roy was no longer alive. I felt sure that he’d been acquaint­ed with Li Ling-Ai and Rey Scott in one way or anoth­er. He prob­a­bly could have pro­vid­ed some inter­est­ing sto­ries about the two of them and the mak­ing of KUKAN. Susan gra­cious­ly invit­ed me over to her house in Lanikai to look at Roy’s pho­to­graph from the time peri­od – the next best thing to meet­ing the man in per­son.

Susan Cummings with portrait

Susan Cum­mings with Wyeth por­trait

 

Susan Cummings hunts for clues her husband's photo albums

Susan Cum­mings hunts for clues in her hus­band’s pho­to albums

Roy’s pho­tos put more flesh and blood on what had pre­vi­ous­ly been mere­ly names on a page. They also gave me some insight into the lifestyle Rey Scott must have expe­ri­enced when he first arrived here.

Aloha Tower in the mid 1930s (photo courtesy Susan Cummings)

Alo­ha Tow­er in the mid 1930s (pho­to cour­tesy Susan Cum­mings)

 

Roy Cummings's Waikiki Shack

Like Roy Cum­mings, Rey Scott holed up in Waiki­ki when he first got to Hawaii. Could his room have looked like this? (pho­to cour­tesy of Susan Cum­mings)

 

But the pho­tos didn’t do much to fill in the gaps of the KUKAN sto­ry. In fact they brought up more ques­tions than answers. Susan her­self was mys­ti­fied as to what hap­pened between May Day Lo and Roy. Why had he mar­ried Mar­garet Kam instead of May Day? She’d nev­er thought to ask Roy about it when he was alive. I want­ed to know if any­one had saved May Day’s papers and if Ling-Ai’s let­ters or clues to KUKAN were amongst them.

Roy Cummings and May Day Lo in downtown Honolulu

Roy Cum­mings and May Day Lo in down­town Hon­olu­lu (pho­to cour­tesy Susan Cum­mings)

 

Egged on by mutu­al curios­i­ty Susan and I exchanged a flur­ry of emails and research find­ings in the next few weeks. Susan proved to be a will­ing and able sleuth, and togeth­er we found out some very inter­est­ing things which I’ll share in future posts. For now I want to pay trib­ute to the “father of the Hawaii News­pa­per Guild” and thank the ghost of Roy Cum­mings for putting Susan and I togeth­er. Of course the “pow­er of the press” had a lot to do with it too.

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(As of 9/24/13 we have raised $7,165 and have $2,835 more to raise by 10/15/13)

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May 2, 2013 — Collaborating With Shadow Creatives

I knew when I saw the stun­ning shad­ow visu­als designer/animator Chris Do did for a GAP cam­paign that I want­ed to use the same tech­nique for FINDING KUKAN.  I envi­sioned Do’s ani­ma­tion being brought to the genius shad­ow scenes that Lar­ry Reed devel­ops for Shad­ow­Light Pro­duc­tions as the per­fect way of car­ry­ing the emo­tion of espe­cial­ly inti­mate or har­row­ing scenes in the dra­mat­ic nar­ra­tive of Li Ling-Ai and Rey Scot­t’s lives.

 

 

So it was thrilling to have both Chris Do and Lar­ry Reed in the same room with me today in San­ta Mon­i­ca at Chris Do’s BLIND design stu­dio office space.  Lar­ry joined us by SKYPE and con­fer­ence call from San Fran­cis­co (SKYPE can drop out on you when band­width is scarce).

Chris Do and Robin Lung SKYPE Larry Reed from the BLIND offices in Santa Monica

Chris Do and Robin Lung SKYPE Lar­ry Reed from the BLIND offices in San­ta Mon­i­ca

After our meet­ing I real­ized that I had found two cre­ative genius­es who were also prac­ti­cal pro­duc­ers with years of expe­ri­ence in how to ACTUALIZE a visu­al idea.  The prag­mat­ic, step-by-step path to bring­ing a new way of visu­al sto­ry­telling to the screen in FINDING KUKAN, just got a whole lot clear­er thanks to Lar­ry & Chris.

Chris Do helps Robin Lung lay out a plan of action for creating FINDING KUKAN's shadow scenes.

Chris Do helps Robin Lung lay out a plan of action for cre­at­ing FINDING KUKAN’s shad­ow scenes.

 

I invite you to check out their work HERE and HERE.  If you are as wowed by it as I was, please con­sid­er con­tribut­ing to the col­lab­o­ra­tion process at our Post-Pro­duc­tion GIFT REGISTRY.  If you have any cool shad­ow ideas or images you think would work well in the film, please post on our Face­book page at http://www.facebook.com/kukandocumentary and write “Shad­ow Idea” in the com­ments sec­tion (and don’t for­get to LIKE us while you’re at it)!

 

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April 25, 2013 — Major Archival Discovery Starts with a Party

It was my hus­band Paul who con­vinced me that I should have a fundrais­ing par­ty.  So last Octo­ber I got many vol­un­teers togeth­er to throw one.  Ter­ry Lehman Oli­val helped by send­ing press releas­es to the local media and got the atten­tion of Star-Adver­tis­er reporter Mike Gor­don.

 

Mellanie Lee, Debra Zeleznick, Robin Lung and Terry Olival at "A Night in Old Shanghai" fundraiser

Mel­lanie Lee, Debra Zeleznick, Robin Lung and Ter­ry Oli­val at “A Night in Old Shang­hai” fundrais­er

That might be the coolest sto­ry I’ve heard in a long time,” Mike said, and promised to write an arti­cle on it.  The more Mike found out, the more he want­ed to know.  His arti­cle grew and grew.  My fundrais­ing par­ty came and went; my Kick­starter cam­paign came and went.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter Mike Gordon signs his support  fpr KUKAN with a "K"

Hon­olu­lu Star-Adver­tis­er reporter Mike Gor­don signs his sup­port fpr KUKAN with a “K”

Final­ly the opus turned up – a 3‑page spread on the film, com­plete with col­or pic­tures, showed up in the Sun­day news­pa­per and drew response from peo­ple as far away as Ken­tucky!

Mike Gordon's article "Reel Obsession" appears in the November 18, 2012 Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Mike Gor­don’s arti­cle “Reel Obses­sion” appears in the Novem­ber 18, 2012 Hon­olu­lu Star-Adver­tis­er

DeS­o­to Brown, cura­tor at the Bish­op Muse­um, also read Mike’s arti­cle and some­thing clicked.  He remem­bered a dona­tion of lantern slides made to the muse­um by Bet­ty Li, Li Ling-Ai’s old­er physi­cian sis­ter, back in the 80’s.  In fact the slides were marked as being relat­ed to KUKAN!  Ear­ly in my research I had read that KUKAN’s direc­tor Rey Scott lec­tured with a group of slides, but no one in his fam­i­ly remem­bered see­ing them or hear­ing any­thing about them.  I had giv­en up on find­ing them.

Lantern slides of 1937 Nanking taken by Rey Scott during pre-production for KUKAN

Lantern slides of 1937 Nanking tak­en by Rey Scott dur­ing pre-pro­duc­tion for KUKAN

So I was on pins and nee­dles last week when I final­ly con­nect­ed with DeS­o­to at the Bish­op Muse­um and had a chance to exam­ine the slides myself.  They didn’t dis­ap­point — 97 images of 1937 Nanking, includ­ing some with Rey and Bet­ty Li, brought Rey’s first trip to Chi­na to life for me in a thrilling way and helped answer some of the mys­ter­ies that had been plagu­ing me for years.

1937 Nanking bomb shelter.  Dr. Betty Li and Rey Scott (far right) with Betty's son Andrew Li

1937 Nanking bomb shel­ter. Dr. Bet­ty Li and Rey Scott (far right) with Bet­ty’s son Andrew Li

Bishop Museum curator DeSoto Brown becomes a fellow investigator on FINDING KUKAN

Bish­op Muse­um cura­tor DeS­o­to Brown becomes a fel­low inves­ti­ga­tor on FINDING KUKAN

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November 7, 2012 — A Presidential Trivia Quiz

With an his­toric Pres­i­den­tial re-elec­tion just com­plet­ed, we want­ed to treat you to a lit­tle Triv­ia Quiz (cre­at­ed by our Pro­duc­tion Intern Mag­gie Bar­rett and fea­tured as part of our recent “Night in Old Shang­hai” ben­e­fit in Hon­olu­lu)

 

Presidential Trivia Slide 1

Close your eyes and try to guess at least 3 before scrolling down.

 

Can you guess at least three things?  They were both from Hawaii is a give away.  Try to think of three oth­er things.  Here’s the sec­ond slide to help you.

Presidential Trivia Slide 2

 

Presidential Trivia Slide 3

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma grad­u­at­ed from Puna­hou School in 1979. Li Ling-Ai was a 1926 grad­u­ate of Puna­hou.

 

Regard­ing Answer B:  Ques­tion­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship may be polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed, but for Li Ling-Ai and many oth­er Chi­nese Amer­i­cans it was a part of dai­ly life dur­ing the days of the dis­crim­i­na­to­ry Chi­nese Exclu­sion Laws. Read more about it HERE.

Regard­ing Answer A:  Li Ling-Ai and Rey Scott showed a rough cut of KUKAN to Pres­deint Roo­sevelt at a pri­vate White House Screen­ing late at night on Jan­u­ary 1, 1941 — 5 days before FDR’s famous Four Free­doms Speech, 6 months before KUKAN would open in the­aters and almost a year before the Japan­ese attack on Pearl Har­bor.  To see proof of the White House vis­it, make a tax-deductible pledge to FINDING KUKAN on Kick­starter and view “Back­ers Only” exclu­sive videos and pho­tos from the doc­u­men­tary.

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October 8, 2012 — KUKAN Moves from the ER to the Operating Table

Many of you know by now that my doc­u­men­tary FINDING KUKAN revolves around my dis­cov­ery of the “lost” 1941 Oscar-win­ning col­or film of war-torn Chi­na called KUKAN. Many of you might also be won­der­ing, where in the H… is KUKAN? If it was found, then why can’t we see it? Well when I tracked down the only full copy of the film it had been sit­ting in a Fort Laud­erdale stu­dio for a few decades and then a Geor­gia base­ment for a cou­ple more. Heat and humid­i­ty had done its work.

AMPAS documentary curator Ed Carter opens up the can containing KUKAN for the first time.

AMPAS doc­u­men­tary cura­tor Ed Carter opens up the can con­tain­ing KUKAN for the first time.

 

When AMPAS’s Ed Carter and Joe Lind­ner opened the rusty met­al can that con­tained KUKAN they winced. “Vine­gar,” they both said, wrin­kling their noses. I learned lat­er that that is a sure sign of dete­ri­o­ra­tion. As Joe exam­ined the 2 reels of film that rep­re­sent­ed 90-min­utes of invalu­able col­or footage of Chi­na in 1939 and 1940, he detect­ed both shrink­age and brit­tle­ness (more bad signs of dete­ri­o­ra­tion). Joe said he’d seen films worse off…but not many. Things looked pret­ty grim. If we were in the Emer­gency Room, this would be time for triage.

For­tu­nate­ly a dete­ri­o­rat­ing film takes longer to die than a bleed­ing human. Two years lat­er, KUKAN has been sta­bi­lized but is still in pret­ty bad shape as you can see by the pho­tos I took of it last week at Col­or­lab in Mary­land where AMPAS sent it to have major restora­tion work done.

One of the film cannisters that holds the only known full copy of KUKAN

One of the film can­nis­ters that holds the only known full copy of KUKAN

 

Close up of the shrunken 16mm film that contains some of the first color footage of China.

Close up of the shrunk­en 16mm film that con­tains some of the first col­or footage of Chi­na.

Parts of it are so curled that they will nev­er be able to be re-plas­ti­cized (a sort of Botox process for film that hydrates it enough to allow it to lay flat in the scan­ner with­out break­ing).

 

The part of KUKAN that can't be salvaged

The worst part of the 2 KUKAN reels was so curled it looked like the plas­tic straws you drink out of.

A par­tial copy of KUKAN that I locat­ed in the Nation­al Archives (NARA) will be used to fill in those parts that are unsal­vage­able. The NARA copy was kept in a tem­per­a­ture con­trolled envi­ron­ment all these years and is in fair­ly good shape. But even that has to go through a frame by frame scan­ning process to pull both image and sound­track from the 16mm strip.

DP Frank Ayala shoots the scanning of a partial copy of KUKAN

DP Frank Ayala shoots the scan­ning of a par­tial copy of KUKAN on the mon­ster machine at Col­or­lab

 

DP Frank Ayala, 2nd Cam­era Mia Fer­nan­dez and I arrived at Col­or­lab to film the ini­tial frame by frame scan­ning of the NARA print and learned a lot about the care and effort need­ed to bring a film back to life.

 

A.J. Rohner, project head on the KUKAN restoration, threads the NARA print through the scanner.

A.J. Rohn­er, project head on the KUKAN restora­tion, threads the NARA print through the scan­ner.

 

A.J. Rohn­er, head “sur­geon” on the KUKAN restora­tion process, assured me that “my patient” could be saved despite its hor­rif­ic appear­ance. He gave us a tour of the mon­ster machine that does the scan­ning – an inven­tion of Col­or­lab engi­neer Tom­my Aschen­bach.

Threading the NARA partial copy of KUKAN through the scanner

The scan­ner doing all the work is a fas­ci­nat­ing con­trap­tion that blinks and whirs and beeps — just like some­thing out of Startrek.

I was entranced by its gor­geous parts, blink­ing lights and robot­ic move­ments — so much more tan­gi­bly sat­is­fy­ing to see at work than watch­ing the lit­tle gray line creep across your com­put­er screen as your dig­i­tal footage down­loads.

 

Frame by frame scan begins on the opening scenes of KUKAN

Frame by frame scan begins on the open­ing scenes of KUKAN

 

Rey Scott in one of the opening scenes of KUKAN

Rey Scott in one of the open­ing scenes of KUKAN

 

I also learned how the sound from the film will be lift­ed from the scan, VISUALLY cor­rect­ed before turn­ing into sound waves and then cleaned and scrubbed to get all the ticks, and hiss­es out. I was sur­prised to learn that those lit­tle hor­i­zon­tal lines on the edge of the film are what make the sound come alive through the pro­jec­tor – a mag­i­cal phe­nom­e­non when you think about it.

Tommy Aschenbach demonstrates the magic involved in restoring sound on a film

Tom­my Aschen­bach demon­strates the mag­ic involved in restor­ing sound on a film

 

Examining color loss on 2 different versions of KUKAN

If you look care­ful­ly you can see the sound stripes on one edge of the film. The top strip is the bad­ly dete­ri­o­rat­ed copy of KUKAN I found. Notice the col­or loss.

From the pho­to below A.J. iden­ti­fied the cam­era Rey Scott was using in Chi­na as a 16mm Bolex.

Publicity photo of Li Ling-Ai and Rey Scott

Pub­lic­i­ty pho­to of Li Ling-Ai and Rey Scott tak­en in 1941

Col­or­lab tech­ni­cian Lau­ra Major just hap­pened to have one in the office that she still shoots with.

Laura Major demonstrates the workings of her 16mm vintage Bolex

Lau­ra Major demon­strates the work­ings of her 16mm vin­tage Bolex

Hold­ing that cam­era in my hands, look­ing through the tiny viewfind­er, and learn­ing that the cam­era could only shoot 100 ft of film at a time (rough­ly 2 min­utes) gave me a much greater appre­ci­a­tion for Rey Scott’s hero­ic accom­plish­ment in film­ing the epic scenes con­tained in KUKAN, espe­cial­ly the 15-minute sequence at the end of the movie that depicts the mas­sive bomb­ing of Chungk­ing and the fiery destruc­tion of the city.

Chinese boy looks into Rey Scott's Bolex on location for KUKAN

Chi­nese boy looks into Rey Scot­t’s Bolex on loca­tion for KUKAN

 

FINDING KUKAN Producer/Director Robin Lung looks through the viewfinder of a 16mm Bolex camera

You can’t believe how tiny every­thing looks through this viewfind­er — no won­der Rey had a hard time focus­ing in places.

I am more deter­mined than ever to reach our $16,000 Kick­starter goal so that we can keep fol­low­ing the mag­i­cal resus­ci­ta­tion of KUKAN and track the amaz­ing sto­ry behind its cre­ation. Please join me on this jour­ney, it’s going to be an incred­i­ble ride!

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October 3, 2012 — Michelle Scott Delivers a Knock Out with her KUKAN SERIES

When I first made con­tact with Rey Scot­t’s grand­daugh­ter Michelle Scott and filled her in a lit­tle about the sto­ry behind KUKAN, she felt a need to trans­fer that sto­ry into paint and shared with me a vision she had for cre­at­ing a whole room of paint­ings ded­i­cat­ed to her grand­fa­ther and KUKAN.  It seemed like a far-fetched dream back then.  So I was more than a lit­tle excit­ed to go to Atlanta to wit­ness the open­ing of Michelle’s solo show — THE KUKAN SERIES.  Michelle had­n’t shared any images of the new work with me, so I was­n’t pre­pared for the visu­al sweep and emo­tion­al pow­er of the work.  It lit­er­al­ly brought me to tears.  Here are a few choice pieces from the show.  WARNING — these pho­tos do not do the pieces jus­tice.  The real pieces have an almost three-dimen­sion­al qual­i­ty that allows the view­er to enter into the scene and expe­ri­ence a lit­tle of  Rey Scott and Li Ling-Ai’s world back in the late 30’s.

Michelle Scott with "Start of a Journey" from the KUKAN Series

Artist Michelle Scott with “Start of a Jour­ney” the exclu­sive pre­mi­um avail­able for a $5,000 Kick­starter pledge (par­tial­ly tax deductible).

 

The 36“X36” piece that Michelle cre­at­ed exclu­sive­ly for our Kick­starter fundrais­ing dri­ve is dis­played right in the front win­dow of 2Rules Fine Art in Mari­et­ta. Casu­al strollers walk­ing down the side­walk can’t help but be pulled in to find out with the imagery is all about.  For close up details of this paint­ing go to our Kick­starter home page.

 

"The Story of Kukan" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott

The Sto­ry of Kukan” 48x84 is the sig­na­ture piece of the show

 

The KUKAN Series con­tains a few gor­geous trib­utes to Li Ling-Ai the Chi­nese Amer­i­can author who was the uncred­it­ed co-pro­duc­er of KUKAN with Rey Scott.

"On a Dream on a Dare - Part 2" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott

On a Dream on a Dare — Part 2” 48x36 fea­tures Rey Scott and Li Ling-Ai

 

The work below con­tains images of Li Ling-Ai from three dif­fer­ent decades and three dif­fer­ent loca­tions (the old Hon­olu­lu Acad­e­my of Art, Bei­jing Chi­na, and New York City)

"Heroine (Miss Li Ling Ai)" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott

Hero­ine (Miss Li Ling Ai)” 60x34 is a gor­geous trib­ute to a remark­able woman

 

There are also fab­u­lous pieces that pro­vide a visu­al mon­tage of the Chi­na wit­nessed through Rey Scot­t’s cam­era.  He took both stills and 16mm col­or movies.  Some of his old cam­eras are on dis­play too with the orig­i­nal stills.

"Chungking Burning" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott

Chungk­ing Burn­ing” 48x25

 

"Rise" Mixed Media from Michelle Scott's KUKAN Series

Rise” 60x34

 

"What about the Children?" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott

What about the chil­dren?” 40x40

Rey Scott trav­eled all the way to Tibet and filmed some of the first col­or footage of prayer rit­u­als there.

Michelle’s take on the orig­i­nal KUKAN lob­by cards for the Unit­ed Artists ver­sion of the film.

 

"Rules of Engagement" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott

Rules of Engage­ment” 24x36

 

"Guerillas" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott

Gueril­las” 24x36

 

"The Miaos Tribe" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott

The Miaos Tribe” 24x36

 

"Burma" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott for the KUKAN Series

Bur­ma” 36x36”

Rey Scott also filmed the famous Bur­ma Road as it was being built.

 

"Shui" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott for the KUKAN Series

Shui”

A reminder of the British influ­ence in Hong Kong which fell to the Japan­ese in 1941.

"Lone Ranger" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott for the KUKAN Series

Lone Ranger” 32x50

 

 

"The Panda Man" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott

The Pan­da Man” 34x60

A whole movie could be made just about the baby giant pan­da bear that Rey Scott brought from Cheng­tu to the Chica­go Zoo. Orig­i­nal­ly chris­tened “Li Ling-Ai” by the for­e­ing jour­nal­ists in Chungk­ing, it was lat­er named Mei Lan when it was iden­ti­fied as a boy pan­da bear.

 

"Portrait of a Lady" and "For Him" Mixed Media by Michelle Scott

Por­trait of a Lady” and “For Him” are the first two pieces that Michelle Scott made in the KUKAN Series

 

There are many more gems in this show. But the emo­tion­al high­light for me was being able to see the first two por­traits of Rey Scott and Li Ling-Ai that Michelle did. I first saw them on her web­site before we even knew each oth­er and before she even knew who Ling-Ai was. This was the first time I was able to see them both in per­son. Since the pieces had been sold to dif­fer­ent col­lec­tors sev­er­al years ago, this was also the first time they were reunit­ed in the same room for quite some time — a sym­bol of hope for me as I con­tin­ue to seek fund­ing to fin­ish FINDING KUKAN.

If you are in the Atlanta area make an effort to see this his­toric show — up only until Octo­ber 26, 2012

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September 15, 2012 — A Fresh Take on Fundraising

Writ­ing grant appli­ca­tions is a lone­ly busi­ness, and receiv­ing rejec­tion let­ters from grant­i­ng foun­da­tions is depress­ing to say the least.  Don’t mis­take me.  Grant monies have been very help­ful to this project.  And since we need more grants to get this film fin­ished, we will con­tin­ue to apply for them and be over­joyed if/when we get them.  How­ev­er, sit­ting back and wiat­ing to hear if some unknown pan­el of judges will deem your project wor­thy of X,Y,Z’s sup­port, can leave a film­mak­er feel­ing pow­er­less and deject­ed.  What to do?

 

Kickstarter Logo

Kick­starter — makes grass­roots fundrais­ing online pos­si­ble

 

Sev­er­al months ago I decid­ed to take a part of fundrais­ing into my own hands with the help of  KICKSTARTER — an online crowd­sourc­ing plat­form that cre­ative types from first-time inven­tors to vet­er­an film­mak­ers like Char­lie Kauf­man have been using to raise funds for their projects.  The idea is that even with small dona­tions, you can raise a decent chunk of mon­ey if enough peo­ple get behind you.  As some­one who was raised to be inde­pen­dent and stand on my own, it feels uncom­fort­able to ask for help, espe­cial­ly mon­e­tary help.  But as soon as I start­ed telling peo­ple about my plans, Voila! a major shift occured in the ener­gy around my film.  I soon had offers of help from friends, col­leagues and com­plete strangers who got excit­ed about get­ting involved in a cre­ative project and help­ing it come to fruition.  Here are some of the amaz­ing vol­un­teers who’ve joined TEAM KUKAN recent­ly.

Several Members of TEAM KUKAN's Volunteer Corps

Anna Guerin, Deb­bie Buc­ci­grossi, Robin Lung, Pam tong, Mag­gie Bar­rett, and Ter­ry Oli­val at a fundrais­ing sum­mit for FINDING KUKAN

 

There are many more peo­ple not pic­tured who have offered goods, ser­vices and morale sup­port.  Sud­den­ly fundrais­ing does­n’t feel like a lone­ly, depress­ing busi­ness any­more.  It’s still not easy.  It’s been chal­leng­ing, time-con­sum­ing, and stress­ful at times.  It’s also a lit­tle scary.  The way Kick­starter works is  that if you don’t raise ALL of your goal you get NOTHING.  So I expect the Kick­starter cam­paign (sched­uled to run from Sept 29-Nov 17) will run me more than a lit­tle ragged before it’s all through.  I also expect it will be an exhil­i­rat­ing ride that many new friends will join me on.  I hope you’ll be one of them.

 

The Sign Language for the letter K

Sign K to Sup­port KUKAN on KICKSTARTER!

 

Here is a sneak peek at a cou­ple of pre­mi­ums we are offer­ing to our Kick­starter pledgers. 

 

Collectible Full-color Posters for FINDING KUKAN

Col­lectible Full-col­or Posters for FINDING KUKAN are just a cou­ple of our amaz­ing Kick­starter pre­mi­ums.
(Images cour­tesy of Holl­wood Chi­nese Col­lec­tion & Michelle Scott Art)

 

Want to join the effort?  Kick­starter is admin­is­tered through Ama­zon.  If you shop on Ama­zon, donat­ing is easy.  If you’ve nev­er shopped on Ama­zon, con­sid­er set­ting up an account to make the Kick­starter dona­tion process go smooth­ly.  Hate the idea of doing any­thing finan­cial on the inter­net?  Don’t wor­ry, we are giv­ing peo­ple the old-fash­ioned option of putting a check in snail mail too!

 

birds nest in mailbox

We love to find presents in the mail too!

 

So what am I learn­ing on my lat­est fundrais­ing ven­ture?  To FACE MY FEAR, EMBRACE NEW FRIENDS, and HAVE FAITH that things will work out.  Have expe­ri­ence fundrais­ing on Kick­starter?  Please share by com­ment­ing.

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September 8, 2012 — Fashion Photos Discovered

Late tonight I am putting off writ­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion for upcom­ing Octo­ber events and brows­ing the won­der­ful pho­tos of Li Ling-Ai that Soft­film blog­ger Duri­an Dave dis­cov­ered in the LIFE pho­to archives.  These are all of a Unit­ed Chi­na Relief Fash­ion show in May 1941 and tak­en by Alfred Eisen­stadt (note KUKAN would pre­miere the fol­low­ing month in NYC — it must have been a heady time for Li Ling-Ai).

Photo of Li Ling-Ai at May 1941 fashion show for United China Relief

Li LIng-Ai mod­els tra­di­tion­al Chi­nese robe at May 1941 fash­ion show for Unit­ed Chi­na Relief.

 

Li Ling-Ai models Chinese gown for United China Relief fundraiser in 1941

Li Ling-Ai was one of the few Chi­nese mod­els at the fash­ion show.

 

Crowd view of the May 1941 fashion show for United China Relief

Crowd view of the fash­ion show helps pin­point the loca­tion.

I love see­ing this crowd shot of all the NYC socialites wear­ing their hats.  While view­ing these pho­tos, a bell rang in my head and I remem­bered some of my research at the Colum­bia Rare Book and Man­u­script Library.  A fash­ion show had been held at the Hotel Pierre.  Sure enough, I com­pared a cur­rent pho­to of the pent­house ball­room and the arch­ways are the same.  I got chills remem­ber­ing that I had been to a wed­ding at that same spot back in the 90’s.

Penthouse ballroom at the Hotel Pierre

The 3,500 square-foot dou­ble height ball­room today, pho­to from NYTimes online

 

I had no idea that Li Ling-Ai par­tic­i­pat­ed in the fash­ion show when I took those notes at Colum­bia a cou­ple of years ago.

Publicity photo of Li Ling-Ai, with K.T. Stevens, James Blaine, Lee Ya Ching, and unidentified Chinese woman

Li Ling-Ai, with actress K.T. Stevens, James Blaine, Lee Ya Ching, and uniden­ti­fied Chi­nese woman

Li LIng-Ai is seen here pos­ing with James Blaine, nation­al chair­man of Unit­ed Chi­na Relief and the pres­i­dent of Marine Mid­land Trust.  He was just one of the NYC CEOs that Hen­ry Luce recruit­ed to lead the huge fundrais­ing effort to aid Chi­na pri­or to WWII.

Li Ling-Ai posing for publicity photo at United China Relief fundraiser

Li Ling-Ai pos­ing for pub­lic­i­ty pho­to at Unit­ed Chi­na Relief fundrais­er

These pho­tos  bring this 1941 event to life for me in a whole new way.  How­ev­er, LIFE pho­tographs are noto­ri­ous­ly expen­sive to license.  So if I’m going to use them in the doc­u­men­tary, I’m going to have to have a fundrais­er myself.  Speak­ing of which… Be on the look­out for our Kick­starter launch in Octo­ber, and if you’re in Hon­olu­lu on Octo­ber 28, come to our “Night in Old Shang­hai” cock­tail par­ty ben­e­fit where we will pay homage to the efforts of these 1941 fash­ion­ista fundrais­ers.

Chinese inspired fashion in 1941

Chi­nese inspired fash­ion in 1941

Chinese inspired fashion in 1941

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July 24, 2012 — An Earfull At the Ear Inn

As the weeks wear on and I get clos­er to the dead­line for sub­mit­ting a grant appli­ca­tion to the NEA, I have peri­ods of doubt and won­der if it’s even worth it to try for such a pres­ti­gious thing.  And if I don’t get award­ed a grant what will it mean – that the project is unwor­thy, and I should give up?

Some­times fac­ing a lengthy grant appli­ca­tion makes you want to cut and run.

Glanc­ing through pic­tures I took in May I’m remind­ed that get­ting grants and mak­ing Art are two dif­fer­ent things.  These black and white snaps were tak­en on a hot sum­mer night when I joined my hus­band Paul and our friend Peer at one of NY’s old­est bars – The Ear Inn on Spring Street.

Photo of Paul and Peer at the Ear Inn

Paul and Peer at the Ear Inn

As I ate mus­cles at the bar and lis­tened to old-time jazz, a woman named Kate­ri­na intro­duced her­self.  She had an intrigu­ing accent and was very charm­ing.

Catha­ri­na is half Russ­ian half Greek.

Sev­er­al min­utes lat­er her friend Roland joined her – an artist, he showed her pho­tos of his lat­est work on his Iphone.The strik­ing shad­ows in his imagery prompt­ed me to talk about the ideas for shad­ow play I had in mind for FINDING KUKAN.

Designer and artist Roland Gebhardt

Design­er and artist Roland Geb­hardt

For some great use of shad­ows, you should see THE THIRD MAN, said Roland.  He sound­ed like he knew what he was talk­ing about.  When I got home I looked up Roland’s web­site – pho­tos of his per­for­mance pieces made me think of all the pos­si­bil­i­ties before me. The doors to cre­ation opened up a crack.

Image from Roland Gebhardt's Layers

Image from Roland Geb­hardts Performance/Installation “Lay­ers”

As I watched THE THIRD MAN for the first time the doors were thrown wide open.  Every shot was a com­po­si­tion­al gem and fired up ideas in my head for ways to visu­al­ize my own search.

 

Scene from THE THIRD MAN

An ear­ly scene from THE THIRD MAN — shad­ows and a great stair­well — 2 of my favorite things.

I’m hang­ing on to the DVD so I can watch it for the third time – a reward I’m going to give myself after get­ting that grant app fin­ished.  You DO need a lot of mon­ey to make movies, but you DON’T need a lot to enjoy the heck out of them.

Screen shots from THE THIRD MAN

Screen shots from THE THIRD MAN

Thanks to Roland Geb­hardt and the Ear Inn for remind­ing me of why I’m writ­ing grants appli­ca­tions in the first place.

Texting from The Ear Inn

The mys­te­ri­ous guy across the bar must be writ­ing a nov­el on his cell phone.

Whether it’s the bar, the gym, or the beach, we all need to leave the desk once in awhile to get a fresh per­spec­tive.  Where do you go when you need a cre­ative breath of fresh air?

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July 8, 2012 — Kickstarter Plans Get Under Way

Well to off­set my ter­ri­ble expe­ri­ence of hav­ing my cam­eras and jew­el­ry ripped off, let’s talk about one of the lucky things that have hap­pened late­ly.  The new FINDING KUKAN teas­er has inspired sev­er­al amaz­ing women to vol­un­teer their tal­ents to help devel­op the film!  All amaz­ing cre­ative pro­fes­sion­als in their own right, Pamela Tong, Mag­no­lia Bar­rett, and Debra Zeleznik recent­ly gath­ered at my house to talk about how to get the film to the next step.  We were guid­ed by the great research vol­un­teer Notre Dame stu­dent Camille Muth did for us.

Robin Lung, Pamela Tong, Magnolia Barrett and Debra Zeleznik hold brainstorming session for FINDING KUKAN.

Robin Lung, Pamela Tong, Mag­no­lia Bar­rett and Debra Zeleznik hold brain­storm­ing ses­sion for FINDING KUKAN.

 

Right now our most imme­di­ate need is to raise fund­ing to com­plete the film.  So we are plan­ning a KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN to begin in OCTOBER.  Why Kick­starter you might ask?

#1.  IT WORKS.  Crowd­fund­ing– it’s what PBS and NPR have been doing for years — the phone in fund dri­ve for­mat where you get a nice lit­tle gift and men­tion on the show for mak­ing your dona­tion at a par­tic­u­lar time.  Kick­starter (admin­is­tered by Ama­zon) is just an online way of doing it and is struc­tured so that inde­pen­dent cre­ative types can have a ready made plat­form to launch their own crowd­fund­ing cam­paigns.  Check out a cou­ple of amaz­ing doc­u­men­tary cam­paigns here and here.

#2. GRANTS ARE GONE.  Well not total­ly.  I’ve been lucky enough to get a cou­ple of small grants in the past and will con­tin­ue to write oner­ous grant appli­ca­tions to try to cap­ture what lit­tle fund­ing is still avail­able to doc­u­men­taries — my Exec­u­tive Pro­duc­er Kim­ber­lee Bass­ford point­ed out that it’s eas­i­er to get into Yale Uni­ver­si­ty than it is to get most major film grants.  Even direc­tors with sev­er­al major PBS doc­u­men­tary series under their belts are find­ing it hard to make films with the tra­di­tion­al fund­ing avail­able in this tight econ­o­my.

#3.  IT’S FUN.  To learn more about Kick­starter I’ve donat­ed to a cou­ple of projects myself.  Donat­ing makes you part of a team and gets you emo­tion­al­ly invest­ed in some­one else’s cre­ative project.  It’s ener­giz­ing and inspir­ing to be part of a group effort to cre­ate some­thing of last­ing val­ue.  Plus there are some fun pre­mi­ums you can get for donat­ing.

Robin Lung and Debra Zeleznik discuss Kickstarter premiums

Debra sug­gests a cus­tom-made bracelet made of mah jong tiles as a pos­si­ble pre­mi­um — I LOVE IT!

 

Do you have any expe­ri­ence with Kick­starter or oth­er fundrais­ing efforts?  Can you give us some point­ers on how to run a suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing cam­paign?  Do you have an idea for a great pre­mi­um to give to future donors?  Don’t be shy!  We need all the help we can get.  Please let us hear from you!

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