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!