It's been a while, but between android programming and writing raytracers and modelers and attempting to learn After Effects while getting used to Premiere Pro, I have put together a short trailer for the film:

Post is still a struggle of a process, but it has been amazing finally seeing my footage come together. A shortened version of this will also be shown at the Visual Arts Center @ DMAX next Tuesday. Enjoy!



Hats should be worn one at a time, most of the time.

This is the lame metaphor I came up with—wow, has it been 13 weeks already??—last December when I jumped into the beginning of this project. Although I was prepared for the task, I could not help but succumb to the flooding of worries that come with independent filmmaking. Independent, as in, not “indie”-fresh-and-hip-and-cool, but as in thoroughly on your own. I found myself suddenly wearing all the hats of filmmaking: cinematographer, camerawoman, director, assistant, lighter, sound woman, editor, grip, etc.

showing how i really feel, with my furry friend, deadcat
There is certainly no rest when it comes to playing all these roles at once. I barely slept the night before my first interview shoot: I spent the whole night trying to decide between 24fps and 30fps, believing that the wrong choice would be the death of me. I was most worried about lighting and focus and being able to act comfortable and natural to my sensitive interview subjects while simultaneously monitoring my new, unfamiliar camera and sound equipment.

I took a deep breath and stepped into my first interview shoot. It was a biggie; it was the one in the mountain side with my foster mountain grandparents (or mtn.grandparents as I refer to them in my film logs). I felt completely unorganized and even a little foolish, as if I were an unworthy Sisyphus and the project was a crumbling rock falling from my shoulders.

Fortunately, as I have learned many times over, taking a deep breath and letting yourself fall into your passions can be quite rewarding. We all have our self-doubts and some moments the doubts are bigger. But our subconscious expertise is always buried somewhere within ourselves.

an interview in action
That being said, the first interviews went well and paved way for the rest of my footage-gathering. The process never got easier, and in the midst of forgotten tripods, batteries, headphones, camera-shy subjects, painful memories, and limited memory cards (not to mention learning the difference between Class 10 and Class 4 SD cards in the middle of an interview at the top of a mountain…) I never really stopped worrying the night or the moment before filming anything. However, as I grew accustomed to the finicky and never-quite-certain process that comes with tackling a project like this alone, filming finally became the exciting adventure I hoped it would.

one of many makeshift "sets", a typical sight

Filming was my reason to wander out to a mountain top at sunrise. Filming was my reason to step dangerously close to creeks. Filming was my reason to come all the way out here in pursuit of a story.

Despite the fact that I have a long road of scripting and editing and animating ahead of me (and as I have discovered, the only thing worse than having to review all this footage is knowing you did it all when 50% of it is junk), learning about myself for the first time as a real-world filmmaker has been quite a revelatory experience. After all, you discover quite a bit about yourself and how much you like to talk and sing to yourself when you leave cameras and recorders on by accident.

A quotation that really spoke to me during a film class goes something like this: “[with the introduction of sound in cinema] we’ve lost a lot of freedom in camera movement.” Surprisingly, this quotation stuck with me a lot on filming days as I hobbled around foreign lands with my tripod, feeling as though I had found again the freedom in cinematography. As crippling as being alone in pursuit of a dream sometimes is, there is an unimaginable glee that washes over the internal sea of doubt with the knowledge that, perhaps even for a moment, you have found your solace.

wear as many hats as you'd like!


to my 15s

Being so far away from campus this term has been the peaceful, soul-searching experience as I had always imagined, one where Dartmouth would chug along as it always does while I wandered off silently to pursue whatever it is I seem to be pursuing, and return to campus just the way I had left it.

I never would have imagined that so much would happen in just one term. The seemingly relentless tragedy that keeps hitting the Dartmouth community, the Dartmouth '15s, my class, my community, my home.

The distance between me and my home this term has never been so tangible as it is now: this unnameable numbness I feel from being so far away and unable to truly grasp what everyone is going through and unable to be there with my friends.

Life is fragile. After losing a dear friend last summer and sitting by my ninety year old grandpa last week I am reminded of our brittle nature, the second that separates our heartbeat from silence, and its uncertainty. Sometimes life subtracts and we can never understand why. After all, what is the difference between us who have outlived our classmates? Is our barrel of luck any more full?

All I know is the little I've always known: the people in our lives are what makes life worth living, so try your goddamn best not to take for granted those you love. And keep an open heart for those you don't yet.



I’ve been biking a lot around Xingning lately and had a revelation one day:

Needless to say, the afternoon was set. I had a wild time zig-zagging in and out of traffic around streets, alleyways, markets, etc. at a breath's length from buses and bikes trying to capture some good footage of this village city. When there’s a will, there’s a way!


another day another chicken

Why did the chicken cross the road?
it didn't want to get smushed by a truck!
It’s no surprise that China is indeed shaped like a chicken. “You are what you eat,” Confucius did not once say. At the joy of sounding like Bubba Gump, here are some of the many chickens I have encountered so far:
xingning chickens
mountain chickens
captive chickens
escaped chicken
farm of chickens
lonely sidewalk chicken

regal chickens
living room chicken
village chickens
lotsa chickens!
Unfortunately there is a huge stigma of sorts that comes with Chinese chickens, notoriously known for carrying avian diseases that have killed many people, including a few recent cases in Shenzhen. Back in December there was a news report showing a massive declaration for chicken vendors to wash their chickens well and keep them behind glass barriers in shops. This was followed by a stern warning from my mother to not go up and kiss chickens, in mockery of my innate fascination with farm animals. It’s too bad these playful creatures, rather than shady health and food regulations, have to take the hit to their reputation.

There was even some strange contemporary art piece in Hong Kong involving traveling chicken statues that were supposed to embody the "ideal" well-behaved chicken, with no diseases. Art, yes.


the story of the beast with those four dirty paws

My father always told me brief stories about where he grew up, in a tiny tiny village deep deep within the mountainside that still remains unmarked on maps today. It always seemed like a fairytale, or at least a sort of living you read about in outdated history books. I imagined a small, stone house nestled high within a clustering of mountains and valleys and a simple simple yet quite beautiful and peaceful kind of living. Well, I finally had the chance to make the trek into the mysterious place my father grew up and I have to say…it was nearly exactly how I had imagined it.

Story interlude: we were chugging along driving to the village; I was quite surprised that we could even get to it by car since there were no roads whatsoever 15 years ago. After zooming up and down small roads and sharp turns we were met by the delightful news that a bridge—the only bridge leading to where we needed to go—was under construction. Half of it was taken down so that it looked impossible to fit a sedan through. "No worries!" though, the villagers shouted, "you can certainly pass!" Folks, even I was doubtful, but as I have learned, you may as well trust the villagers if you have no other choice—we made it across.

youuuuuu shall nottttt....
I won’t go in to the nitty of family history quite yet, but basically my father grew up here with his foster parents who love him more than I’ve ever seen his real parents do. It was a heartbreaking sort of experience, meeting them again as an adult capable of comprehending the complexity of their situation rather than as a 5-year-old child excited to play with chickens (I was still, however, very excited to play with chickens). Their soft spoken kindness and generosity brought me to tears.


The lifestyle is simple but the air and the water are lovely fresh here, untouched yet by neither smog nor (unfortunately) modern thinking. It broke my heart to meet their youngest daughter—beautiful, clever, hardworking—who is already a grandmother and obligated to stay in the mountains to raise pigs, just because she is the youngest. And a woman. Sun sets rather quickly in the winter time, where it’s off to bed to drift off to sleep before one is too aware of the cold that creeps into every orifice of the stone house during the night.

There is not a beast but a loyal pregnant dog that lives with my foster-grandparents here and helps watch over the pigs. She became my fast friend, accompanying me as I went around to explore. She gazes out into the mountains every now and then, just as my grandpa does, pining each day for my father to return.

*post title is from "Dirty Paws" / Of Monsters & Men


a happy january 1st in Beijing

A couple days after I returned from the countryside I zoomed off to the good ol’ capital of China on the high-speed rail, which went about 305km/hr. I had the good fortune of sitting next to a baby the entire ride there who took an immediate liking to me. Truly a miracle.

After 10 hours, I arrived in Beijing! West. A different railway station than I had planned. And I quickly learned that Beijing Mandarin has a very different, unique twang (rrrrrrr) to it that led to a very, very, very confusing first conversation between me and a taxi driver who was not having it trying to understand my Hakka-not-Mandarin-English hybrid of a language. Talk about a crash course in Mandarin. Fortunately we eventually settled on a good drop off point nearish to the hostel I was to stay at, and only after an hour of being lost in the dark hutongs of Beijing did I find the shining beacon of the hostel, and Peach, a very nice yet sassy receptionist. It was smooth sailing from there.

Shijia Hutong, my temporary home-sweet-home
The next six days were a combination of fast learning and fun adventures, both alone and with my friend Ashton who is currently teaching English at a school in Daxing, Beijing. Highlights include learning to haggle (sort of), becoming a “regular” at the noodle place at the end of my hutong, befriending local convenience store owners, managing to communicate with locals and sometimes even passing off as one, making new international friends, and of course discovering much of what Beijing has to offer. It is a magnificent city indeed, with its imperial ancient history never for a second falling under the shadow of the prominent and proud modern architecture, of the city's current age of rapid development.

Highlights of local exploration and blind navigation include:

An overly welcoming bar to internationals.
Perusing the night market...
...and falling victim to aggressive vendors.
New Year's Eve spent in a cozy cozy rickshaw in traffic
(they're this big)
New Years, which, by the way, the Chinese in China hardly bat an eyelash at. So happy January 1st and good tidings to you all. Sincere apologies to my nice new Canadian friends whom I severely misinformed, by saying that there would probably be “fireworks or something cool!” at Tiananmen Square on new year’s eve, which there were not. The real new year’s this year is January 31st, where the whole country will go bezoomy during weeks of celebrations.

And now an interlude of some #solo #outfitrepeating travel pictures:

me and the Forbidden City
me and the walkway to the sacrifice hall in the Temple of Heaven
me and the Altar of Prayer for Good Harvests
me and another prayer hall
me, just beyond the Sixty Year Gate. check out that angle.
me and the Sixty Year Gate
me and a brass-knobby door
me and Tiananmen Square
me (and Ashton) making the tough trek up the Great Wall
me and the Great Wall
and again, because it's an ancient wonder of the world and such after all
While the temples and the Forbidden City were certainly magnificent in their distinctive Chinese architecture and style and grandiosity, the Great Wall was definitely the most thrilling experience. At the peak of where we climbed, the wall seemed to wind on endlessly, intertwined comfortably with the mountains. I often stopped to stare off into the distance that hazy day, imagining what it must have been like to walk these walls when it stood for its original purpose.

in all its glory
Another unexpectedly fun part of seeing the Great Wall were the sliding cars! which slowly lugged you up one side of the wall in a slow, rickety-kind-of roller coaster seat in an unfinished carnival-sort-of vibe. Still fun though, highly recommended to avoid climbing too much as some steps near the top of the wall were up to my knees. Would be an epic venue for stadiums.

and of course it wouldn't be china without a silly little sign