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Tag Archives: Robin Lung
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.I was a more than a little nervous as I prepared for a trip to Georgia and Florida to meet descendants of
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).
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.
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.
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.
What a wonderful surprise to open my email and find a notice from Paypal that the esteemed New York City artists Richard Cramer and Carol Markel had made an online donation to FINDING KUKAN. They are truly an inspirational couple and obvious trend-setters. I hope their ground-breaking generosity will encourage others to take the step.
For a fun peek at this great couple, see Ari Seth Cohen’s blog “Advanced Style”.
“If you build it.…they will come.”
I’m adapting the lines from the great baseball book/movie Shoeless Joe/Field of Dreams and hoping they’ll apply to this website and eventually to the finished documentary FINDING KUKAN. Since this project has been fueled by online research and discoveries made possible by other websites, it’s only appropriate that I put out one of my own. Now it’s up to the cyberspace gods to work their magic…
British stage actor Bryan Pearson stepped in to record a few lines of narration for the Finding KUKAN fundraising trailer currently in its final edit.
Brian refers to himself as the “original Terminator” since he played Thor in the 1959 cult classic Teenagers from Outer Space under his stage name Bryan Grant.
I found Brian through a fascinating loop of connections that started off when I interviewed war-time Chungking journalist Wing Yung Emery and sister of Choy Wai Chuen, the first Chinese man to play at Wimbledon in 1948. The loop of connection was made possible by the diligence of Chris Essex, webmaster for Framlingham College alumni. Framlingham was the prep academy that Choy Wai Chuen and Bryan Pearson both went to.
Another eye-opening zig in the amazing zig-zag journey I’ve had since finding KUKAN.
Cameraman Ron Darby and Producer Robin Lung begin filming interviews and b‑roll in Hawaii for the Finding KUKAN fundraising trailer.
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.