Starting is the Hardest Part

blank-page

That image above is a good summary of the hardest part of making a short film (which is just one of the things I’m doing in the next few months). Seeing a blinking cursor on screen is just so intimidating. Even though my ideas are always brewing in my head for a while before I actually start typing things out, that doesn’t make it much easier.

The weird thing is that once I start, things open up. The words just start flowing out of my fingertips when I actually start typing. But it takes a massive amount of effort to just get those first words onto the page. I’ve started though. I’ve got the draft of my short film’s script written, though there’s some stuff I’m not happy with yet about it.

Until I get it refined a little more, I’ll just leave the logline here:

A student who hates his roommates must spend 6 hours trapped in a room with them during an emergency.

Building and Fixing: Working on PCs

Some people build computers. Other people fix them. We all use them.

I recently built my first computer and was inspired to share my experience and also see what it’s like to fix a laptop. I visited with Michael of The PC Penguin and watched as he fixed a broken power port on a laptop, and we talked about what it takes to keep up with the changing computer repair industry. In this short documentary, I also share a brief overview of what I went through to build my first computer. Looking back, I make it sound a little scarier than it was, but it’s really not that hard. If you’re interested, you should give it a shot sometime!

My original idea for this documentary fell through, so I only had about a week and a half to put this one together. I had just finished building my first computer a day or two before and it was such a great experience that I decided to make that the subject of this documentary! I emailed Michael and he was perfectly willing to participate and it was really interesting watching him work. I wish I had known I would be doing this before I built my computer so I could have recorded myself as I put it together. Instead, I had to go back after the fact and recreate a couple of shots. Also, since the inside of my case is painted black, it’s really hard to get good shots in there, but I did my best.

Michael Fixing a Laptop's Power Port

Title Screen

Chinese in Rigby: Short Documentary

[Trailer coming after it finishes uploading. Check back in the morning. This message brought to you by awful internet, which is what I have. Seriously, this apartment complex could use a major upgrade.]

Why would a little elementary school in a small town in the middle of Southeast Idaho be teaching their students Chinese? How would that even work? Well, they are and it does. At South Fork Elementary in Rigby, Idaho (population of the entire county: about 25,000) some of the Kindergartners and First Graders are not just learning their ABCs: their learning an entirely different language.

The long-term goal of the immersion program in the Jefferson (County) School District is to have the students learn the language all the way through high school, achieving a high fluency level by the time they graduate from high school. South Fork Elementary in particular chose the Chinese language to give the students an advantage in the business world in 15-20 years when they graduate from college.

In this short documentary, I tried to capture a little slice of what the classroom environment is like, while providing a little basic information on the program. I cannot say enough nice things about the staff at South Fork. They have been nothing but helpful and kind in their assistance making this film. The teachers are wonderful, the administration has been so cooperative, and, most importantly, the program is great. While it’s clear the students don’t understand everything the teachers are saying, it’s amazing to watch them pick up on and understand the contextual clues surrounding these new words they’re learning. They can already count at least up to twenty in Chinese. They generally have a good idea what the teachers are asking them to do. They’re little information sponges, which makes them the perfect candidates to learn a new language, even while they’re still trying to get a grasp on their native language.

Special thanks go out to Mr. Howard, the Principal of South Fork for keeping in good contact (even if I didn’t always do a good job at that), the school secretaries for helping me out (and saving me hours of work digitizing all the legal release forms), Yu Jin and Li Li for putting up with me distracting the students (though I tried not to, the kids will¬†always be distracted by a camera), and anyone else I might have forgotten. I’ve had a lot of great support, and I’m very appreciative of that.

A Chinese immersion program in Rigby, Idaho?

It seems odd that there would be a Chinese language immersion program for kindergarten and first grade at an elementary school in tiny Rigby, Idaho. Why would they need to, or even want to, learn Chinese in a town surrounded by fields and farms?

It’s true though. I’m currently creating a short documentary about this program. South Fork Elementary started it this fall with two teachers: one for kindergarten and one for first grade. The majority of the class is taught in Chinese, including and encompassing every other subject the students would learn. They speak Chinese all through the school day, every school day.
In my documentary I’ll be showing a typical day in the classroom, with interviews with the teachers, school administrators, and parents discussing the merits and challenges of the program.
I would have some stills and a trailer, but I actually haven’t filmed it yet! The biggest challenge with this documentary has been getting the legal and privacy aspects taken care of. You have to be extra careful when you’re dealing with an elementary school! Those are all worked out now, and I’ll be going to the school on Tuesday and filming all day!

Getting Started HTML

Time for a senior project! I’m synthesizing all my interests together by creating “Getting Started HTML,” a guide to learning the very basics of HTML and CSS for people who aren’t even aware what HTML or CSS are.

This arises out of my campus job from the last several semesters. I tutor for a class called “Creating Online Media,” which is a class to teach HTML and CSS to communication majors. These are people who are more familiar with Photoshop than a text editor. HTML may seem relatively simple to those of us with a background in technology, but it’s extremely hard to get into the correct mindset when you have never had to use anything but WYSIWYG tools. HTML and CSS are pretty abstract ways to create things: you’re turning text into design.

Basically, I want to make these things easier to understand. That will not be an easy task, but you can help if you want. I’ll be building text and video content over the next two months. I would love feedback along the way. Particularly, the written content is available online as I write it. So get in there and give me feedback!