Tag Archives: Finding KUKAN

February 19, 2012 — What do HUGO and FINDING KUKAN have in common?

Film Poster for HUGO

Mar­tin Scorce’s HUGO is a trib­ute to film pio­neer Georges Melies

 

Like many peo­ple who were charmed by Scorcese’s recent film HUGO, I had lit­tle knowl­edge of ear­ly film his­to­ry or Georges Melies before see­ing the movie, so I head­ed to the inter­net after­wards to find out a lit­tle more about him.

 

Photo of Ben Kingsley & Martin Scorcese on the set of HUGO

Ben Kings­ley (cen­ter right, as Georges Melies) con­fers with director/producer Mar­tin Scors­ese (far right) on the set of HUGO, from Para­mount Pic­tures and GK Films. Pho­to: Jaap Buitendijk.

 

Although Melies is rec­og­nized today as an ear­ly film inno­va­tor with a fab­u­lous imag­i­na­tion, he fell out of favor dur­ing his life­time and many of his films were melt­ed down or destroyed.

Still from Melies's THE MAN WITH THE RUBBER HEAD

Still from Melies’s THE MAN WITH THE RUBBER HEAD

 

While read­ing about Melies, I ran across Wikipedia’s list of Redis­cov­ered Films. Hap­pi­ly a cou­ple of Melies’s films from the 1890s have been redis­cov­ered in this century.

 

Excerpt from Wikipedia's List of Rediscovered Films - 1890s

Excerpt from Wikipedi­a’s List of Redis­cov­ered Films — 1890s

 

Scrolling down the list, look what film shows up in the 1940’s … Rey Scott’s KUKAN!

 

Excerpt from Wikipedia's List of Rediscovered Films - 1940s

Excerpt from Wikipedi­a’s List of Redis­cov­ered Films — 1940s

 

And that’s the answer to a film triv­ia ques­tion that might some­day be asked on a game show in the far future – HUGO and FINDING KUKAN are both about redis­cov­er­ing lost films and for­got­ten filmmakers.

 

Georges Melies postage stamp

In 1961 the French gov­ern­ment issued a postage stamp in hon­or of Georges Melies’s cin­e­mat­ic contributions.

 

Maybe some­day KUKAN, Rey Scott, and Li Ling-Ai will have a postage stamp ded­i­cat­ed to them too.

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January 30, 2012 — Georgia Remote Shoot

I got goose bumps when I first saw Michelle Scott’s paint­ings on her web­page two years ago, and I’ve been a fan of her work ever since. Since my dis­cov­ery of KUKAN, Michelle has been using her grand­fa­ther Rey Scott’s Chi­na pho­tographs in her paintings.

Painting by Michelle Scott

Bat­tle Cry” by Michelle Scott

Recent­ly she cre­at­ed a cou­ple of excit­ing new paint­ings for a group show at 2Rules Fine Art Gallery that will open on Feb­ru­ary 3rd in Mari­et­ta, Geor­gia. While seat­ed at my desk in Hawaii, I was able to inter­view Michelle about that process with the help of Skype and Atlanta DP Wes Brown­ing of Sema Films.

Photo of Robin Lung in Hawaii office

Direc­tor Robin Lung con­ducts Skype inter­view from Hawaii.

 

Wes also got some nice shots of Michelle putting some final touch­es on her paint­ings before deliv­er­ing them to 2Rules. Wes and Skype facil­i­tat­ed anoth­er vir­tu­al meet­ing and inter­view with gallery own­er Becky Rule. Of course I would have loved to do be there in per­son for it all, but I’m thank­ful that Skype and Wes allowed me to be a vir­tu­al part of it. Here are some pho­tos Wes took of the shoot.


 

Becky Rule of 2Rules Fine Art

 

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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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December 1 to 31, 2011 — Producer/Director Robin Lung Featured on Career Changers TV

Although I’m more com­fort­able being behind the cam­era than in front of it, I agreed to be pro­filed on OC 16’s Career Chang­ers TV show in order to get the word out about FINDING KUKAN.  Pro­duc­er Rich Figel and Cameraman/Editor Stan Chang man­aged to boil my life of job-hop­ping down to a suc­cinct 4 min­utes or so.  Even bet­ter, the lead in and out of the piece made peo­ple real­ly want to see the work-in-progress trail­er and learn more about KUKAN.  The show airs through Decem­ber on dig­i­tal chan­nel 16 or 1016 in Hawaii.  The show is rebroad­cast Fri 2:30pm, Sat 6:30pm, Sun 12:30am, Mon 9:00am, and Wed 2pm and Thur 8:30pm through Decem­ber.  If you can’t catch it, here is a low res­o­lu­tion version.

 

You can see the nice lead up to the trail­er here.  And a fab­u­lous arti­cle Rich wrote about “The Mys­tery of Li Ling-Ai” here.

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December 2, 2011 — Gifts From the Blogosphere

There’s noth­ing like hav­ing a cold over the hol­i­days to make you feel sor­ry for your­self. It’s that old deject­ed feel­ing that creeps in as the box of kleenex gets emp­tied. Now that I’ve recov­ered, I’m hav­ing some belat­ed Thanks­giv­ing thoughts, tal­ly­ing up the wind­falls that have come my way over the past year — many by way of the inter­net and blo­gos­phere. Recent­ly I made an inter­net con­nec­tion with blog­ger Duri­an Dave, who turned out to be a very gen­er­ous like-mind­ed soul with an incred­i­ble visu­al archive and wealth of knowl­edge about old Chi­nese films and film actress­es.  See his blog and Tum­blr for hours of enter­tain­ing and eye-open­ing arti­cles and pho­tos.  David advanced my KUKAN research tremen­dous­ly by send­ing a bunch of choice KUKAN relat­ed items to me, includ­ing this vin­tage lob­by card.

Lobby card for the 1941 Oscar-winning documentary KUKAN

Lob­by card for the 1941 Oscar-win­ning doc­u­men­tary KUKAN

Besides dis­play­ing gor­geous col­or and imagery, the card had an intrigu­ing embossed stamp on the bot­tom of it:  “STATENS FILMCENSUR 1947–48.” David sus­pects that the stamp refers to Swe­den’s cen­sor­ship board. If he’s right, that means KUKAN screened all the way in Swe­den! So if any of you Swedish film col­lec­tors come across 16mm Kodachrome col­or footage of Chi­na that appears to be from 1939 or 1940, let me know! We’re still look­ing for good par­tial prints to help with the KUKAN restoration.

My next post will fea­ture the fab­u­lous pho­to of a jet-set­ting Li Ling-Ai that Duri­an Dave dug up as well as info about a cou­ple of oth­er ground­break­ing Chi­nese Amer­i­can females work­ing behind the cam­era. Why not now you might ask. Hey, I’m still recovering!

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October 3, 2011 — Crafting Story with Editor Shirley Thompson

Robin Lung & Shirley Thompson view FINDING KUKAN footage

Robin Lung & Shirley Thomp­son view FINDING KUKAN footage

When I first met Shirley Thomp­son back in June, I was already a fan of her work and instinc­tive­ly knew that she would be a great long-for­mat edi­tor for my project. So I was thrilled when, at our next meet­ing, she voiced enthu­si­asm for FINDING KUKAN and agreed to edit the project once it got to the post pro­duc­tion stage (assum­ing that sched­ules, financ­ing, and all the oth­er vari­ables of doc­u­men­tary pro­duc­tion work out). 

Shirley Thompson edits FINDING KUKAN footage

Shirley Thomp­son edits FINDING KUKAN footage

When I need­ed an addi­tion­al few min­utes of footage cut for a grant appli­ca­tion, I was very thank­ful that Shirley was avail­able for a few days to help me out.  I’m hap­py to say that my instincts were cor­rect.  Not only was Shirley a joy to work with — pro­vid­ing a beau­ti­ful, airy work­space; 2 cats to pet; and incred­i­ble choco­late snacks — she helped  me sort through the small mass of footage I’ve col­lect­ed so far and turn it into man­age­able chunks of sto­ry that added up to some­thing real­ly exciting. 

Shirley Thompson's post-it storyboard for an excerpt from FINDING KUKAN

Shirley cre­ates beau­ti­ful post-it sto­ry­boards to help struc­ture the edit session.

The result was that I was much clear­er in my head about the kind of sto­ry I want­ed to tell with FINDING KUKAN. And I was more con­fi­dent about what I need­ed to film next to fol­low that story.

Shirley real­ly is a sto­ry doc­tor. And I’m more moti­vat­ed than ever to com­plete pro­duc­tion and get back to the edit­ing room with her. It’s an exhil­i­rat­ing experience.

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July 23, 2011 — A Visit to the New York City Office of the National Archives

When I first start­ed check­ing to see if Li Ling-Ai could have been the real life inspi­ra­tion for the fic­tion­al detec­tive Lily Wu, I tracked down some of her trav­els through boat records that are avail­able on Ancestry.com.  One of the Ances­try records was a New York Exclu­sion file that list­ed the date of her arrival in San Fran­cis­co.  Going over the notes on the record again, I saw that Li Ling-Ai’s file includ­ed an inter­ro­ga­tion.  Since the inter­ro­ga­tion occurred only a year before Li Ling-Ai met Rey Scott and con­ceived of mak­ing the movie KUKAN, I was anx­ious to read through the inter­ro­ga­tion to see if it con­tained any clues.  In July I final­ly got a chance to vis­it the NYC office of the Nation­al Archives where Li Ling-Ai’s Exclu­sion file is located.

photo of Robin Lung at the NYC office of the National Archives

Robin Lung exam­ines Li Ling-Ai’s Chi­nese Exclu­sion File at the NYC office of the Nation­al Archives

It was amaz­ing­ly well-pre­served, and I had a lot of mixed emo­tions while exam­in­ing it.  On the one hand, I was excit­ed to see a pho­to­graph of Li Ling-Ai in the file that I had nev­er seen before and let­ters that were hand-writ­ten by her.  Han­dling the doc­u­ments gave me a very vis­cer­al con­nec­tion to the past and to this woman that I have been pur­su­ing for the last cou­ple of years.

photo of Li Ling-Ai's Chinese Exclusion File

Li Ling-Ai’s Chi­nese Exclu­sion File

On the oth­er hand I was appalled that this file exist­ed in the first place.  I had to think about the bla­tant anti-Chi­nese dis­crim­i­na­tion that led to The Chi­nese Exclu­sion Law — the rea­son for the cre­ation of the file I was touch­ing.  I was astound­ed that a U.S. cit­i­zen like Li Ling-Ai (she was born in Hawai‘i in 1908 when it was already a U.S. Ter­ri­to­ry) who had a U.S. Pass­port (doc­u­ment­ed in the file) would have to spend days at the NYC Immi­gra­tion Office in order to get a re-entry form that would make it pos­si­ble for her to come back to her own coun­try after leav­ing it!  And that she would have to sit through an inter­ro­ga­tion to prove that she was authen­tic despite all the oth­er doc­u­men­ta­tion she had made me even more indignant.

 

As a researcher, I was thank­ful to be able to access the reveal­ing infor­ma­tion in the file and draw both the pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive ener­gy from it.  So I have to acknowl­edge the hard work that goes into index­ing, stor­ing and retriev­ing these records.  That day at the Archives I wit­nessed two vol­un­teers who were labo­ri­ous­ly going through files and enter­ing data into lap­tops so that oth­ers like me could find infor­ma­tion about ances­tors and char­ac­ters from the past.  I wish I had got­ten their names and tak­en pho­tos of them if only to pay a small homage to all the oth­ers like them who have helped for­ward my investigation.

photo of documents in Li Ling-Ai's Chinese Exclusion File

Doc­u­ments in Li Ling-Ai’s Chi­nese Exclu­sion File

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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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February 2010 — Hawaii Community Television Signs on as Fiscal Sponsor

Hawaii Com­mu­ni­ty Tele­vi­sion, a 501(c)(3) non-prof­it com­pa­ny signs on as the fis­cal spon­sor for Find­ing KUKAN. This is an impor­tant step as now all con­tri­bu­tions to the film made through HCTV are tax deductible up to the full extend of the law. HCTV has sup­port­ed film in Hawaii for decades and has spon­sored many award-win­ning films such as Pic­ture Bride, Fish­bowl, Heart of the Sea, and Pat­sy Mink: Ahead of the Major­i­ty.

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