One of the problems I’ve always had is underestimating. I underestimate how long it will take me to do an assignment. I underestimate what I’ll need to have for a project I’m working on. And I certainly underestimated how much stuff I need to do when working on my short film.
I’ve been working on a pre-production plan for the short film I’ll be shooting next month. Once again, I underestimated just how much planning goes into it. I have scenes pictured out in my head, but when I actually sit down and break down the scene, I realize that I’m going to need X number of actors; this, that, and the other prop; a lot of lighting to make sure people aren’t just shadows. The list goes on and on.
The worst part is knowing that no matter how much pre-production planning I do, I’ll have forgotten something. I always do. Every time I travel between home and school I always leave something behind. I know the same is going to happen with this production. But that’s a part of life. Things will be forgotten, but rolling with the punches is an important part of any creative effort.

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!

It’s the Little Things

A couple of weeks ago I got to do a full day of video shooting for my internship. I wasn’t so happy about it the next day though. We spent all morning outside. It was a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining, there was barely a cloud in the sky, and the wind mostly stayed away so it didn’t mess with our audio too badly. Best of all, it wasn’t incredibly hot. It felt just right outside.

Maybe that’s why I forgot sunscreen. It’s not one of those things you immediately think of, but it sure is a great idea. I go pretty much straight from “super white” to “lobster.” I don’t really tan. By the end of the morning my arms were incredibly red. So was the rest of me, but my arms were the worst. A couple of days later I was about to drive to the office to start editing the videos when it happened. My left arm itched. It was about the worst itching I’d ever experienced. Of course, I didn’t want to scratch too hard or I’d just tear my skin up and make things worse.

So I drove to the grocery store, got some aloe lotion and some diphenahydramine (you may know it as Benadryl), and proceeded to have a miserable day. My arms were sticky from the lotion and I was fighting to stay awake from the medicine (you may also know diphenahydramine as Unisom, a sleep aid). Of course, none of this would have happened if I had worn sunscreen that morning.

Sometimes it’s the little things you bring on shoots that make all the difference.

48 Hour Video? Piece of Cake!

For one of my classes we had a little video project. Except it was a pretty big video project: we had to create a 60-second commercial in 48 hours.

Technically we had a little more than 48 hours to work on it. We could come up with ideas ahead of time, but my group didn’t get together to meet until about half an hour before we had to present our idea to the instructor for approval. That’s when things got good. I don’t know exactly how we came upon the idea, but we managed to think of an idea for a Pepto Bismol ad. We all were leaning in a comedic slant the entire time trying to come up with ideas, so this one ended up being pretty good.

The premise of the ad is that an actor is auditioning for a bunch of parts in one day. As the day goes on, the food items he’s auditioning for get more disgusting: it starts with some greasy tacos with “atomic sauce,” and progresses up to the most greasy pizza imaginable (achieved by slathering some vegetable oil on a slice of pepperoni pizza). By the end of the day he just collapses on his couch. At least until you hear his stomach make some pretty upset noises and he practically flies off the couch to get to his bathroom as fast as possible. Cue Pepto Bismol logo and a slogan.

We had the basic idea down in about 10 minutes, presented it to our instructor, and then spend another hour or so in pre-production. We needed to come up with shot ideas, an actor, and some lines. We got those down.

That’s when my knowledge of what happened gets iffy. Simply put: I had work and wasn’t able to help with any of the shooting. Yikes. I know, but I had already expended all of my favors getting others to cover my shift so I could go to my grandfather’s funeral over the weekend. Sometimes that’s just how it goes I guess.

We met up as a group to talk about how we wanted the edited piece to turn out, and to review the footage we got. One shot was blurry, so that had to be re-shot later.

To be honest, the editing didn’t really take that long. There weren’t a lot of shots total, and we already had a clear idea of what we wanted the finished project to look like. The only hard part was getting the timing of the bites right.

Anyway, we got that finished up and presented it to the teacher. He suggested a few minor edits and we ended up with this as our final product:

Of course, he had to throw us a curveball: we now had to edit the video down into a thirty second version.

We met briefly as a group to discuss what parts to trim up or cut out, and I got back to editing it. We cut the intro down quite a bit, reduced the amount of time it took for each bite, and then compressed the audio montage at the end a bit. Voila! Thirty second version! Again, the editing didn’t take too long because of our planning and exceptional teamwork. We ended up with this:

We actually like this 30 second version better than the original 60 second version we made! I think the project ended up being rather successful, and we got a good grade on it!

Special thanks to the awesome partners for this project. I’ll update this post as soon as I track down social media links for them or whatever.

Lyric Video!

For one of my classes, we’ve been learning After Effects, and our final project was to do a motion typography video.

Here’s mine: 30 seconds of Madeon’s “The City!” (Be sure to watch in HD!)

Let me know what you think in the comments below!