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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.

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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…

So Laundroteers, we are seven days into the lunar new year and a whole month has gone by in 2014. It is NUTS how quickly time flies by, yet at the same time, not a week has gone by without new developments popping up for The Laundromat.

In the spirit of this brave new year, I’d like to share the good news AND the bad news. And in the spirit of many before, let’s start off with the not-as-great stuff.

Recently I heard back from CAAMfest (what was once the SF Int’l Asian American Film Fest) and I was not chosen to be part of their program. I was hoping this would be my very first Film Fest debut, but it was not to be. Hearing the news was a bit disheartening, because I think every filmmaker dreams of making it to a film fest where they know their film will be enjoyed by large audiences. And let’s be honest, I kinda thought that I’d be a shoo-in with the Asians. (naïveté now dead, no worries)

This whole month I was getting increasingly more anxious as time passed and I didn’t hear back. I started to run myself through the worse-case scenarios and ask, “Well, Vanessa, what will you do if you don’t get in? If they don’t say yes, what’s next?” This kind of mental exercise helped some, but for some reason the least helpful thing I did was tell myself, “Well, even the best got rejected so many times.” Although this is probably statistically true, it still has a ring of falseness, or even condescension to it. On the other hand, the most helpful mental exercise I practiced was telling myself it wasn’t personal, that films are sometimes rejected for reasons you do not expect or understand, that the title of filmmaker is not earned through entry into a film festival. That seemed a little more true, and  for the past three days it’s helped me shake off any crippling doldrums.

Phew, now that I’ve ripped off that band-aid, let’s jump into some of the more exciting news:

1. A couple weeks ago I screened at UCLA with a small group of Asian American Pacific Islander Master of Social Work students, first-year film students, and Asian American Studies students. We had a cool discussion after the screening and I received some heartfelt responses to the work. Here’s a photo from that time:

MSW API Caucus Screening

2. I’ve also had a few offers to go to different schools and screen my movie. In the next couple of months I hope to work with the Center for Asian Pacific American Studies at Pitzer College, a psychology class at Azusa Pacific University and an Asian coalition at Fuller Theological Seminary to not only screen the movie, but also to stimulate some discussion.

3. But at the moment, I may be the most excited about this next piece of news…The Laundromat DVD outreach pamphlet is finished and will soon join the swag going out to my Kickstarter supporters!! Below is a picture of the cover and it is flippin’ sweet.

For now I’m going to count these events as 1 step back and 3 steps forward. And as time races forward, TLD is picking up the pace as well. The trick is probably to learn how to enjoy some of it.

TLD Outreach

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

This post has been a month coming. It’s not a particularly epic post, but now that the dust has settled, I can freely inform everyone that I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS NEXT. That phrase is fraught with the same magnitude of excitement and anticipation that I was feeling a month ago, but what has changed is that I know more. Yup, more answers have only resulted in more questions… still, the questions have solidified into a series of semi-concrete options and are not the fuzzy, nagging doubts that were obscuring the path ahead.

Back then two events loomed on the horizon: my first solo screening of The Laundromat and transitioning into a new job. Naturally, the whats, hows, whos and whys rolled in like so much marine layer in the otherwise beautiful beach day of my movie being done. What did I need to do to pull off the Kickstarter screening and any accompanying swag? Who would come? How would the audience receive it??? What would this new job entail? How would I be able to gracefully exit from my old one? Was this the right decision at this time in my life? Round and round the questions swirled until time lifted the fog.

The screening itself was an amazing event that made me feel loved and supported beyond what I could imagine. Friends, family, and new friends showed up to watch, listen, and oh yes, DISCUSS. Not to mention the fact that many of my friends and family helped out in every aspect of the screening – food, setup, hosting, documenting even (my dad took pictures of the whole thing as only Asian dads can). Though I cannot measure the impact of the event on others, I know that the outpouring of support for the movie and for me on that night cannot be replicated. So thank you to all who participated, including those who could not make it, Akemi Hong for designing the swag, any Kickstarter supporters who couldn’t make it out, and anyone who was part of the film. Wish I could have shared that with you, but I know there will be more opportunities.

 

Now comes the part of figuring out what is next for the movie — film fests, direct outreach, enhancing the website, sending out the remaining swag, mining the footage for more treasure, expanding the community, and hopefully more conversations about the issues within the film. I can’t lie and say that I have a step-by-step plan to take over the nation with this film, but I am working on it.

 

Which brings me to my new job… With the goals of concentrating more time on my movie, getting more sleep, and bringing some balance back into my life well on their way, I think my fears about this choice are slowly being quelled. I haven’t worked out the kinks of this new life yet, but I have cooked more, spent quality time with people, and stayed up late as a choice and not as a requirement of the job. It is freeing.

With no idea what is next, I’m excited and tense, beginning to strategize the next steps for TLD. Hopefully, in my next update I’ll be able to tell you what’s on the horizon. For now enjoy my excited face with the sexy TLD designed DVD, and further down, Asian dad pictures!!

TLD DVDDSC00052

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TLD is DONE. Wow, I said it.

I want to officially proclaim this puppy to be a full-fledged dog. In fact, it feels like I’m about to send my child out into the world, letting it take its first steps into preschool, then 1st grade, and then COLLEGE (this child is apparently doogie howser to the nth degree). I have no idea what kind of mix of pride and fear and excitement and anxiety, must run through a parents’ heart, but I’m experiencing at least a taste of this intoxicating cocktail. I mean, feedback from classmates is great, working with other artists to see your vision through epic, but allowing others to see your film, interact with it, judge it (judge you) and ultimately take a peek inside your everloving soul…wow. Same as sending your kid to her 1st day of school, right? Meh…

I think the rational part of me knows that that is way too dramatic. And… the other bits of me are waving nervously at a small kid with a too-big backpack, walking toward a building that seems so vast and impersonal. But I have been assured that the festival route is important, eye-opening, and dare I believe it, rewarding. Also, having been a doc pre-screener at a well-known fest, I realized that everyone has to start somewhere, the big SEND. For most people the byzantine rules and sheer number of film fests is already daunting, but I’ve already psyched myself out without having submitted a minute of footage.

But all gnawing reasonable and unreasonable fears aside, I am still trying to move forward. Am I convinced that this film needs to be out there in the world? I think every filmmaker has to ask him/herself that question. And for so long I’ve held the belief that this film needs to be made, not just for myself but for the many stories that are simmering and brimming over from the status quo of silence and shame. To consider not putting the film out there would go directly against the reason of its inception. Yet now I am at the point where the film is not just my own creative and personal endeavor. It could have its own life beyond what I could imagine for it, if only I’d allow it to leave home one day at a time.

(Is that what it feels like to be a parent???)

Anyway, I can’t wait to show the film to my Kickstarter supporters, to my friends and colleagues, and I guess to a wider world. Thanks for sticking around and moving into the next phase with me.

THE LAUNDROMAT DOCUMENTARY COMING TO SOME KINDA SCREEN NEAR YOU. PLAN ON IT. 😉

Ready for my 1st day and I couldn't be more ridiculously matching. d

Ready for my 1st day and I couldn’t be more ridiculously matching. d

 

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

Hey Laundroteers, I apologize for the couple months of silence. My life up till now has been a flurry of hurry up and wait, with each step of the journey bringing me achingly closer to the film being finished– yet not being finished will never feel close enough.

BUT before I get wrapped up in mournful generalities, let’s backtrack a little and get some details. I currently work as a post-production coordinator for two Spike reality television shows. It’s a job that involves me helping others to meet deadlines, stay within budget, and constantly stay in communication with the different parts of the sausage factory. (Yes, making TV is a sausage factory.) All of this is ironic, considering that producing my own movie often involves me doing the same exact things for myself.

For the past couple of months The Laundromat went through the process of peer screening and picture locking (the moment you stop editing your film). Was the film on schedule and on budget? Yes, and it was able to happen with the help of my amazing creative team. But whose schedule was I going off of? I set goals for myself and I’d say about half the time we were able to cheerily meet them. The other half of the time, I slowly and frustratingly realized that the indie feature must feel “done” to one person – me. Not a network or a showrunner or a set-in-stone air date, at least, I didn’t have those things breathing down my neck. On one of my most frustrated nights a clear-headed friend said, “You need to sleep on it. You can’t just lock it, because today is the day you decided to be done.” I could have if I had really wanted to, that was up to me. But my film would have been a sculpture without eyes (and a trogdor without chiaroscuro inverted V’s). So I waited. And slept. And prayed. Stalled some. Got impatient with myself again. And then grappled with it. And then I picture locked. And boy, did I experience glorious relief!

And now? Now is my glorious return to the grindstone. After you decide to stop fiddling with the story of the movie, now begins the 2 parts technical, 3 parts creative part. The list is as follows: Work with a composer to score my film, get all of the video files to be a similar aspect ratio and format, put some color correction onto my film, have someone make sure all the sound levels are right, and… more. There is still at least a month’s worth of work. I have entered Post Purgatory and yet I couldn’t be happier (and more scared). I am closer than ever to being finished and putting this film out into the world. So here is to the hurry up and wait, the frustration, and every step forward. I’m going to try and enjoy my time in limbo. Feel free to hold me to that!

And here are some things that happened or are about to happen:

Daily Bruin article written about my peer screening

link to my composer’s work

– Will be part of an upcoming panel in May at UCLA discussing AAPI mental health well-being; here’s a link to the organization running it

almost there