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May has become an excellent time to celebrate — May flowers, Mothers, NBA playoffs, allergies… and more recently this month helps us focus on two extremely important things to this Laundroteer — AAPI Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. For a whole month the nation shines a light on many of the overlooked stories and facts around these topics.

Being from Los Angeles, I have had incredible access to resources on my community’s history and culture, as well as the variety of mental health services offered, but across America ignorance surrounds one subject, while stigma surrounds the other. If you get a chance this May, go ahead and represent! Let the internet know that discussion of these topics doesn’t end in May (I definitely won’t stop being Chinese American on June 1). 😉

So with the excitement of education and awareness in the air, I’d love to update you on what’s going on with The Laundromat.

First, this is me. This is me with my DVD for my VERY FIRST FILM FESTIVAL EVER as a director.

IMG_3016

Bluray for 10th Annual Houston Asian Pacific American Film Festival

Yes, the excitement is palpable.

I’ve been invited to screen at the 10th Annual Houston Asian Pacific American Film Festival, which is hosted by OCA-Greater Houston on June 20-22 and 27-28. Their stated purpose is “to entertain and educate Asian American youth and young professionals, to reach out to the community, and to support Asian Pacific Islander artists and filmmakers. Through partnerships with community organizations, the film festival brings attendees together to appreciate the diversity of the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) community and the commonalities shared by the groups.

Sounds like my kinda fest. But here are the deets for my screening if you’re out there or know anyone who lives out there:

Saturday evening, June 21, 2014between 6pm – 10pm @ Brilliart Films (10905 Bellaire Blvd., Suite C, Houston, TX 77072) –> EVENT IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Anyway, go if you can! Talk it up if you can’t.

 

The SECOND fun update is that The Laundromat has been PODCASTING. With my excellent partner in crime, April, I’ve been able to continue the conversations she and many of my friends have started. Part of my excitement about the podcast is due to our exploration of a wide range of topics and our aim of accessibility. If I could sum up this experience in one sentence, it would be that we are breaking down the stigma of mental health one laugh and one shared experience at a time. The other great part of the pod is having more voices participate in the dialogue – new friends, old friends, and yes, Kristina Wong of Reparations for Yellow Fever all went on mic with us. We’re eternally grateful for their time, because they brought insight and examples for us to chew on… and very soon you can chew along with us!

The podcast has not yet been posted, but when it does go live, you’ll be the first to know. Seriously, April and I can’t wait to share it with you.

But in the meantime, go engage in your favorite Asian Am cultural activity and learn some new facts on mental health. I’m going to kill two birds with one stone and watch Joy Luck Club on repeat everyday until June.

Suyuan: That bad crab, only you tried to take it. Everybody else want best quality. You, your thinking different. Waverly took best-quality crab. You took worst, because you have best-quality heart. You have style no one can teach. Must be born this way… I see you.

 

**In my next post, I’ll share about the various college groups where I’ve had the privilege to show my movie. Get ready for some deep reflections y’all…

Welcome to 2014, Laundroteers! For some reason it doesn’t yet feel like a new year for The Laundromat, but with a few cool events on the horizon, 2014 may be the year that changes everything (whoa, huge proclamation, right?).

First up, The Laundromat is holding a screening THIS TUESDAY (1/21), sponsored by UCLA’s School of Social Work’s Asian Pacific Islander Caucus. What has me all giddy about this screening is that I’ll be showing the movie to future clinicians and others who attend UCLA’s Schools for Public Policy & Public Health. In addition to Asian American audiences of all generations, I am really excited to show the movie to those who have made it their business to help families and individuals learn to speak. Who better to dialogue with on the issues of culturally-sensitive, multi-generational counseling and therapy stigma reduction? There are many, many groups whose eyeballs I want watching the film, but MSW students hover near the top of the list.

The second announcement is that we are writing outreach pamphlets to accompany our first distribution of our DVDs. At the moment, we are only distributing DVDs to our Kickstarter supporters. But more importantly, we are also trying out a new idea with them — why not aid the conversation after the film by providing them with discussion questions and other information on the issues? I’m again working with the ever-so-talented Akemi Hong and Frances E. Chang to make this happen, and wowee zowee! Yes, this is the exact phrase I want to use to describe the pamphlet that will neatly fit into each DVD case. Sleek, hopefully thought-provoking and informative, we’re putting the finishing touches on the pamphlet in order to send it out soon.

Third, my co-conspirator in AtTheLaundromat.com, April Balotro, has been cooking up something sweet for your reading pleasure. She is carving out a desperately needed blogging space on the ATL website to fill a gaping hole in communication. I’ll let her describe her goals in her own words, but the space will be named “Hang Me Out to Dry” and is set to launch at the beginning of this year.

Finally, I am 0 for 2 right now in my film festival submissions. I applied to four great fests so far- Slamdance, Center for Asian American Media fest (formerly SFIAFF), Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Fest, and True/False film fest, and The Laundromat did not find a home at Slamdance or True/False. Currently, I’m cautiously optimistic about the other two festivals and mildly disappointed by the rejection from the first two; at the same time, I know that the future holds other opportunities and unanticipated adventures for The Laundromat.

So, here’s to 2014 and all it holds! Keep your eye open for Hang Me Out to Dry and if you’re a Kickstarter supporter, I hope to bring you more great news (and an item of swag or two) soon. 😀

Oakland dandelion

Hey again, Laundroteers! A week after my keynote speech and moderating gig with Active Minds’ UCLA chapter, I wanted to update and thank you for your different encouragements.
As some of you may know, I was completely nervous, because I can’t remember the last time I had to give a SPEECH to people. Oh yes, I am charming and witty in Q&As (not really, but I’d like to advertise myself as such), but giving me 10min to freestyle on my movie and the API community and mental health sounds like a confusing train wreck of ideas. Kudos to Active Minds for their courage in asking!

Well, hopefully, my keynote bolstered by clips from the movie was more Union Station than an actual wreck, but it was a great opportunity to learn how to focus my ideas and tailor the VAST array of themes that are involved to a specific audience. What ended up out there in the atmosphere was a description of my own undergraduate experiences, a comparison of my journey with one of the interviewees in the film, and the idea of choice — what does it mean to choose to speak up or out? Oh yes, and for those still reading, I threw some Robert Frost and AP English Language references out there to seal the deal. Arcadia nerddom never dies.

But the MOST surprising and AMAZING part about this whole evening? The panel. I got to bear witness to some very brave college students discuss some of their history with taboo topics. Not only was I reminded of how many heart-breaking and empowering stories exist for every Asian Am/Pacific Islander, but with each word, I saw a laundromat get built. With each story and question, the panelists were able to create a safe space for themselves and those in the room. I couldn’t help but cheer and fist pump (on the inside so as not to cause alarm), because this is why I created The Laundromat – open dialogue, frank conversations. I’m not sure if I can measure the impact of my speech and film, but I know that much of the magic of that evening happened because a bunch of college students decided to be brave and honest with some of their peers.

Anyway, Laundroteers, this is hopefully the beginning of something amazing. I’ll keep you updated on where The Laundromat goes next.

the ol' wash & fold in berkeley

One year ago I started shooting my thesis, The Laundromat Documentary.

Two years before that I teamed up with the endlessly talented Judy P to shoot what would be the initial seedlings of The Laundromat feature. In May 2011 Sun K agreed amidst her busy schedule to be my Story Consultant (aka Story Crisis Counselor). Then in August 2011 I teamed up with Akemi H, Chris D, and April B to create AtTheLaundromat.com; and with their powers combined, they helped me make a beautiful, streamlined, eloquent little community site. Frances C joined the party in January 2012 powered almost exclusively on passion to help me seek grants and audiences. By March I had recruited Esther S to be my editor because of her experience and sensitivity to my film.

And now a year after I launched the Kickstarter, my movie is about to be picture locked. This means I am that much closer to being able to proudly show off what many have supported through verbal affirmation, financial resources, and/or their time and skills. I’m so grateful for everyone’s support whether we met only a year ago or if they’ve been supporting me my whole life (THANKS MOM & DAD!). I’m also thankful for the patience everyone’s shown in watching the film evolve.

Please expect more updates more often. We’ve come a long way and I can’t wait to share more of this journey with all of you out there.

Thanks, everyone!!!!!!!

Hooray for quick updates!

I’m so so pleased to announce that TLD is UCLA’s first nominee for the Princess Grace/JUSTFilms Grant. I can’t even describe how amazing it would be to be selected. I’d get to be contemps with Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of Sin Nombre and Jane Eyre, and UCLA’s own Ham Tran, director of Journey from the Fall. But even being nominated puts me in good company with UCLA’s most talented.

In a general sense, it’s a little affirmation after all the work my producer and I put into grants. I am far from being good at this grant-writing process, yet I was beginning to worry that my grant-writing was not getting better (though I did get better at taking rejection.) I’ve probably mentioned (whined about) it before, but grant-writing is totally distracting from the main task of making a movie, while at the same time, totally essential. It’s one of those frustrating paradoxes, like spending money to make money. For now I’m just happy at the faint whiff of finishing funds for TLD. It would kinda rock real hard to be able to finish the movie with some resources available.

In other news, I’m also excited to introduce the filmmaker who is helping TLD come together as a movie. Esther Julie-Anne and I know each other through UCLA where she is a year ahead of me in the program. She is a mucho talented editor and a great storyteller in general. She also has a cat who can sense my fear, but he is too much of a gentleman to rub his allergens on me.

gentleman cat

Esther and I have been working to do some heavy lifting with TLD. As the end of my time at UCLA approaches, we hope to have a really solid rough cut that will determine the “skeleton” of my movie as we like to call it. What exactly is the rough cut? Broadly speaking, it is the first cut of your whole movie. It is often way too long, and in narrative, it’s when you cut to the script. Imagine it as the sculpture with distinct lines and broad strokes but not a whole lot of details. You can just make out the shape – ok, it’s human – but maybe the eyes don’t have pupils yet.

From what I’ve seen already, it’s a bit exhilarating. It’s my movie as filtered through the eyes of someone who has not lived with this material as long – fresh and only the essentials. It’s fun because we understand each other as often as we question each other. I tell and retell the different threads and themes of the story to my editor, because many of the details are stored in my head, inaccessible by the external hard drives we share.

In a way it’s like grant-writing. Yet it’s completely different because the objective is not to sell, but to sync up. Sometimes I like to think that Esther is my fingers – if my fingers had a mind of their own and were wiser and saw the world in a Franco-American way. 😀 Wish us good luck on this next part of the journey.

Over the four years I’ve been in film school my head has been stuffed with knowledge that heretofore had been completely foreign to me: The Method style of acting, Fisher dollies, story beats, and what the heck a producer even does. But within the last year of making my thesis, I feel like the amount of knowledge I’ve had to acquire to make a feature-length doc is exponentially greater. I’m even considering purchasing an extra hard drive for my brain. I think 8 terabytes might be enough (currently my personal collection of hard drives now numbers in the 15-20TB range, which is basically 15-20,000 GB).

But the best way to stop your head from exploding while making a movie is…*drum roll please*…finding the BEST collaborators. If you’ve ever had a great partnership, or just a bad one, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a very obvious statement, but to a lone-wolf documentarian type like me, it’s hard to entrust your work to others. I mean, the ever-talented JPhu set the bar high for my expectations for all subsequent collaborations, but as you may begin to hear a lot, I got so dang lucky with the people who I ended up working with. from on camera to behind the camera to before the camera even began rolling, there were people either stepping up and volunteering or people who i contacted that responded and gave in ways i could only imagine.

So similar to the 4 C’s you have to look for with diamonds, I think I can summarize my gleanings on collaboration to these 3 C’s: communication, clarity, and candidness.

COMMUNICATION be everything. That’s where it all starts and ends. You set the tone and punctuality of your correspondences. If you hate emails and meetings, quit filmmaking! Or, quit civilization. haha No, but seriously, my ability to communicate professionally started with my first corporate job. I’m thankful to KCS and Judy Mcmillon in making me into a lean, mean liaising machine.

CLARITY in communication and in your creative vision is also something essential. you can still have a couple of the details not figured out, but clearly knowing what you want and communicating what you need is the difference between good product and… poop on a stick. granted, not everything will be perfect, but many of the times, i didn’t get the thing that i asked for (right gfx, right shot, useable interview answer) because i didn’t lucidly communicate what i needed. in fact, if you do not ask for what you REALLY need from someone, please expect to get an empty box instead of that golden retriever puppy with the ribbon on its neck.

CANDIDNESS is one of the other things i needed to work on. of course, it wasn’t that i was lying to people’s face, it was more that i needed to be real about what i could offer people, or as mentioned before, you need to communicate what you really need from someone. in other cases, when someone needs feedback on something they did for you, tell them when it’s what you want or don’t want. it doesn’t help to hold back, because most times collaborators are there to help you continue figuring out how your vision can come to pass.

PHEW. all that blabbering made me tired. with my website just DAYS from being launched, i would like to introduce some of my stellar collaborators:

AKEMI HONG: graphic designer, artist extraordinaire, corgi-lover –responsible for the slick, streamlined look and feel of AtTheLaundromat.com, Akemi is a sassy gal who’s sensibilities range from the abstract & beautiful moving image to the commercially-viable designs and lines she seems to make with ease.

CHRIS DOMINO: 1,021st level programmer, manly bike rider — responsible for all the plumbing and waterworks that help my little site exist. His wizardry can be seen on many professional sites, but he’s lent his skillz to making my site super interactive and ready to dialogue with the world.

APRIL BALOTRO: chief content manager, canine-loving high school friend — responsible for editing and helping bring fresh, grammatically-correct, and interesting content to my site. April came and asked me if she could help put her passion for these issues and her managing editor expertise to use with AtTheLaundromat.com. I had no choice but to say yes (or I’d fall over with my lack of knowledge).