Tag Archives: Robin Lung

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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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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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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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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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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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 12, 2011 — Gifts from the Blogosphere Part II

Besides the beau­ti­ful KUKAN lob­by card, blog­ger Duri­an Dave also sent this evoca­tive pho­to of Li Ling-Ai. 

Li Ling-Ai arrives in LA for KUKAN pub­lic­i­ty tour, 1941

She is caught debark­ing a Unit­ed Air­lines plane in Los Ange­les, arriv­ing from New York where she had moved in 1939 or 1940.  She was in town for the Los Ange­les pre­miere of KUKAN at the Esquire The­ater on Fair­fax. 

KUKAN pre­miered at the Esquire The­ater in Los Ange­les on August 15, 1941

Sad­ly, the Esquire The­ater was pur­chased In 1953 Can­ter’s Deli pur­chased the the­ater.  The won­der­ful mar­quee is miss­ing, but sup­pos­ed­ly you can still see rem­nants of the old the­ater in the inte­ri­or while eat­ing your sand­which (an activ­i­ty I have yet to do).   The cap­tion on the back of the pho­to quotes Li Ling-Ai as say­ing “No mat­ter how long nor how hard the strug­gle, Chi­na will win its unde­clared war with Japan. It is grave­ly con­cerned at the threat to the Bur­ma Road con­tained in Japan­ese occu­pa­tion of Indo-Chi­na, but nonethe­less con­fi­dent.”

It is great proof of the part that Li Ling-Ai played in help­ing to pub­li­cize the film KUKAN and keep the gen­er­al pub­lic aware of what was going on in Chi­na at the time. 

Ling-Ai’s ear­ly affin­i­ty for air­plane trav­el and her desire to learn to fly a plane was one of the first things that impressed me about her.  Pri­or to find­ing KUKAN I had­n’t heard of any Chi­nese women tak­ing to the skies ala Amelia Earhardt.  While research­ing the era, how­ev­er, I’ve dis­cov­ered that there were sev­er­al Chi­nese women who were not­ed pilots in the 30’s — Lee Ya Ching, Mag­gie Gee and Hazel Ying Lee to name a few. 

Thanks to Duri­an Dav­e’s blog– I’ve dis­cov­ered anoth­er Chi­nese Amer­i­can woman who by the looks of this pho­to was not only an ear­ly fly­er but an ear­ly movie direc­tor as well. 

Actress Olive Young behind the cam­era (cour­tesy Soft Film and Duri­an Dave)

Olive Young is bet­ter known as an actress who left her birth­place of Mis­souri to become a film star in Chi­na.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly she seems to have had a trag­ic end and lit­tle is known about her fim­mak­ing career.

Still I can’t help but be inspired by the pho­tographs of these ear­ly Chi­nese ground­break­ing women.  And I won­der what was in the air at the time that caused them to jump in cock­pits and take up cam­eras and attempt count­less oth­er dar­ing feats that had nev­er been attempt­ed by women before?  Thanks to the blo­gos­phere for mak­ing it eas­i­er to explore that time peri­od and find oth­er time-trav­el­ing souls.

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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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