Executive Producers: APALC, LA-18.
Script, Cinematography, Editing and English Graphics by: Ming Lo
Cast: Student, Janet Chu; Florist, Mrs. Chu; Yuppie, Richard Tang; Doctor, Grace Kung; Depressed Person/Abuse Victim, Elainia Perng; Discrimination Victim, Doris Tsu; Lonely Man, Jack Tsu.
Graphics (In-Language) by: Diego Taracena
The Project. I’ve worked with the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in various capacities for several years now. I’ve done their corporate dinner videos twice, and been their annual dinner photographer twice. Their communications director, Melinda Ou, used to work at LA-18, and I did several projects for her while she was at LA-18. So there’s a bit of history here. APALC needed a PSA (Public Service Announcement) explaining their legal services to the community. It’s always a pleasure to work with old friends. This piece aired in English, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.
The Creative Challenge. The script actually took a bit of thought, because it had to explain, clearly and concisely, what APALC does. And then the rest was translating abstract concepts into visuals. The symbolism was the hardest part: finding images that reflected ideas, and all on almost no budget.
Behind the Scenes. In this case, shooting itself wasn’t difficult. In each case, it took about 20 minutes to shoot each person. The challenge was finding locations, people, situations and actions that conveyed these concepts.
– “Hopes, Expectations and Dreams”. How do you show these concepts? Well, by using people that symbolize these ideas – the hopeful student, the hard-working immigrant, the expectant yuppie. And I lucked out here. Janet Chu is an actress, and her mother owns a floral shop in San Gabriel. In fact, if you’re ever in need of flowers, for a wedding or an event (I have to give a plug) – check out www.orchidboutique.biz. The columns just outside the store look just like a school, and the flower shop was perfect for the theme. I shot Rich Tang, the “expectant yuppie” in Westwood, where I had previously shot model Sunisa Kim‘s zed card.
– “Challenges We Don’t Expect”. My photography and acting helped a lot here. In acting, I learned that sometimes, just watching someone think is fascinating. I often like to take pictures of people while they’re thinking or daydreaming, it makes me wonder what’s on their mind. Now take that shot at the right angle, and the photography can a whole other dimension. I love the wide shot of Grace, the doctor, in the hospital, it really makes me wonder what happened that day. I also find Elainia’s face very expressive, as well as her hands (the shot started on Elainia’s hands, I had to cut that part because of time). Acting and photography have taught me that hands and body position can really say a lot.
– The “Abuse Victim” Shot. It took a long time to come up with this shot. How do you show abuse? At first, I thought of blurred silhouettes of a man beating woman, with vague voices in the background. That was heavy handed, I thought, and the wide shot of Elainia, sitting alone in the window, in a t-shirt, was much more subtle and effective. The physicality of being curled up in a fetal position also said a lot, I felt. And oh yeah, white balancing to get blue adds to the mood.
– The “Discrimination Victim” Shot. Again, this was hard at first. How do you show discrimination? Closing the door on someone was the best I could think of, and it was really important that the person look hopeful, and then disappointed as the door closed. We did several takes, and you’ll love this – while I was shooting Doris at the door, Jack, her husband, was kneeling down beside me, shutting the door on each take.
– The Lonely Man. That’s Jack Tsu, Doris’ husband, in the background APALC and the organization’s phone number goes over the screen. The body posture – arched shoulders, hands behind the back – and the person placed as a small, blurred figure in a wide shot – all give a sense of loneliness and isolation.
The Team. I really have to thank my cast. In this case, it was all in the casting, and they made the piece work. Many, many thanks.