Thursday, July 3, 2008

A day with the film

Today is going to be a full day focused on the film, as was yesterday. I've taken two vacation days from work so that I can keep things moving forward. It's a good time to do it since Independence Day is a holiday, which gives me three full extra days (in addition to the weekend). So, it's almost like having a full week to work on the film. I can't help but fantasize that this is what it would be like to have my "full time job" actually be filmmaking, as this has been my dream for so long. It is incredible to feel one's dream converge with reality.

I feel like my research on Hollywood is starting to solidify, too. For so long I have watched and read actors and filmmakers talk about how "lucky they are to work with such great talent" and how they "would work with so-and-so on another project any time", but now it's starting to get ingrained in my head.

You have to surround yourself with people that are far more talented than you are, that bring incredibly valuable skills and ideas to the table. You want to go to war with these people, and you have to trust that they will understand your vision and help you make it come to life. You need to know that they will be there to help carry you, when you are too weak to walk on your own.

It's not too different than being in the jungles of Vietnam with a Montagnard at your side to show you how to survive eating the poisonous plants and life-threatening wild life that could kill you at any moment, or a barrage of enemy fire heading straight in your direction. It is no wonder why American troops trained them and fought side-by-side with them. But, where are we now when they still suffer in Vietnam? Where are we to fight by their sides when they need us?

As I sit at this cozy Cafe Carolina in Cameron Village, waiting to meet on of the Montagnards to chat about his studies in Texas, I am reminded at how surreal this whole project feels. Yesterday was an incredible day, and it feels like each one just keeps getting better and more exciting. There is much to tell and little time to share it at the present moment, but that will come soon I am sure.

There are three interviews scheduled for today, and a meeting at the Apple store again. I've logged some of the HD footage, and recognize the insurmountable help I'm going to need editing everything into a succint 30-minute piece. But the reasons for the film are never forgotten.

Yesterday, one of my interviewees smiled at the end of almost two hours of talking, and looked me in the eye to if this film was going to help his people. The love he has for helping his people (both in Vietnam and here in the States) just pours from him. He has seen so much, survived incredible circumstances, and sat across from me yesterday asking for my help.

Every day is incredibly humbling. I told another friend a little more about the project, specifically how we want it to bring about positive change. He said, "Really? Is that one of your goals?" I like his questions because he is very grounded in reality, and helps me keep my head out of the clouds.

"Yeah, it is. We're hoping that by telling others about what's happened and is currently happening, we can make change take shape," I replied confidently. I'm hoping so. Counting on it. Knowing that this is all choreographed by something much larger and more important than I am, I feel that it could make positive change happen.

And when my interviewee looked at me smiling, asking that question yesterday, I genuinely meant that response. The Americans that fought with them made many promises, and as an American, I feel it's the least I can do. For now.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More Great Convos

As I sit in my living room, my G5 logs and captures footage in the other room. Finally, the struggle to get all technological details in order has commenced! I am terribly excited!

This week will be a busy one, full of interviews and meetings relating to the film. I have a lot of errands to run to be sure all tech stuff is in order. Thankfully, though, I am expecting to leave the equipment in the same location over the course of the next three days which will make this series of interviews infinitely easier.

And, in another turn of exciting events, two more folks have volunteered to help with the film! My friend Chris Moore will be helping me tomorrow as a director so I can focus on the interview. I am so thankful for his help! It will be great to focus on the interviewing instead of worrying about the camera and lights.

Things are falling into place, and I'm incredibly excited about the coming weeks. Namely, getting a rough cut of the film together! How exciting!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Recap of Past Few Days

Full Steam Ahead
The project is moving ahead quite well—and at full speed ahead, I might add! I have been very lucky, and incredibly grateful to have the help that continues to present itself. Oh, I do love to collaborate! I am very excited to be surrounded by people much more talented and experienced in certain areas of expertise. They are teaching me a great deal, and it is very humbling to see the momentum this project has gained. Here’s a recap of the past few days and what I’ve been focusing on specifically over those days.

Thursday, June 26
Another night spent trying to upgrade my G5 ended in frustration. Helen (one of my best friends since high school) asked me to join her on a trip to Barnes & Noble. Thankful for a break from the software aggravation I excitedly accepted (and secretly hoped to find a book that might explain what I was doing wrong).

Barnes & Noble is such a delicious indulgence. I could stay there for an entire day just browsing, reading random topic after topic. We spent some time in the business management section, and I eventually led us over to the history section. Oh, I do love the war history section! I found one shelf devoted to Vietnam and was immediately intrigued by the type of books were on display. Most of them were accounts from veterans, descriptions of their time spent dodging bullets and running through jungles. Tales of heat, humidity, dirt, heroes and camaraderie. Then there were more academic descriptions and research, the types of books that have 20-page works cited in addition to a detailed index.

I flipped through some of the latter trying to find the word I wanted: Montagnard. While it wasn’t the most scientific research, my results did prove what I suspected to be true. Very little was told about this group of people. Here was this big Vietnam sign, and only one book listed Montagnard in the index. Again, I recognize that this was not scientific research, but it did make me a bit sad to see such a profound lack of intelligence on the subject.

Not until I was introduced to Surry did I learn the word, or ever meet a Montagnard. Now that I am this deep in the project, I realize how little I once knew and even further recognize how much more I have to learn.

Why are the Montagnard people not widely discussed? Where are the heroes that made the promises to help them in Vietnam? Why are we, as a nation, not helping them more? Why in the world are we trading with Vietnam when they are reportedly treating our devoted allies so poorly?

I spent some time rereading materials Surry gave me back in March, specifically Greg’s article titled ‘Abandoned Allies’ and it brought a great weight back on my shoulders. I cannot understand how one could treat another human being with such disrespect. And it’s not just about the Montagnards, it’s bigger and more global; it’s about the Golden Rule.

Treat others as you wish to be treated.
Plain and simple.

Make a promise and keep it.
Plain and simple.

When you have something another needs, give it to them.
Plain and simple.

When you need something another has, ask for it.
Plain and simple.

Those last two thoughts are a repeat of an episode of Sex in the City, when Carrie breaks up with Ayden and has to buy back her apartment but doesn’t have the money she needs because she’s bought too many shoes. Samantha tells Carrie, “Money is fluid. If you have it, you give it. If you need it, you take it!”

We’re not just talking about Vietnam; we’re talking about being responsible world citizens. We’re talking about being world leaders. As individuals, we should demand that our government act a certain way on our behalf. That’s our RIGHT as Americans, to elect responsible officials to govern the nation.

Anyway, I digress…back to the subject at hand, right? Pardon my rant there.

Before leaving, I picked up a Time 40th Anniversary Special devoted to the year 1968. The photos and stories inside helped me remember many important things, and helped me visit a year I never lived through. It was money well spent.

Friday, June 27
The next day I had a One on One appointment at the Apple store again. What another delicious institution. Just walking in that store makes me feel sleeker and smarter, younger and hipper (at least until I talk to one of the kids working there that makes me realize I don’t know squat about the latest technology).

My teacher, Tom, walked me through a recap of our last session. He asked if I had worked with any of the tools we’d discussed. No? Why not? Ten minutes later, he had sold me the latest OS X update.

It was a very beneficial 60 minutes, where I learned a lot about the proper way to use the program and tools that will make my life infinitely easier. Where were these tools when I was doing video editing four years ago!? Hm, I suppose they must have been included in the updates.

I tried to leave directly after our session concluded so I wouldn’t be convinced of buying anything else. Just then, the sky broke open and a great big beautiful thunder storm commenced. I walked out to the door to the mall and found a small group of women congregating by the doors, waiting for the storm to pass. Impatient at the thought of waiting for rain to fall, I took off my shoes and socks and blissfully dodged through the massive rain drops like a little girl splashing in puddles.

Out of breathe and soaking wet, I drove home and caught some pictures of the rainbows overhead. It was a peaceful, beautiful moment. I wondered how many moments like that happened in Vietnam, how many times the sun shone on the highlands and made everyone look up to the sky in appreciation—even despite being in the midst of battle.

Saturday, June 28 — A Day of Good Things
Lately I have been waking up before the alarm goes off, which is completely different than earlier in the week when I was sleeping for 10-12 hours at a time. I find myself waking up, ready to get out of bed and get to work. It’s refreshing.

Saturday was no different. I was up before 7am, and ready to go! I started installing software and got a message about the entire process taking over 100 hours. Disheartening again.

By 10am, I was at Panera reading some materials provided to me, and in walked Doc. We’d agreed to meet to talk about the project and see if he is interested and available to work on it with me. The conversation was a little disjointed by my own fault of having had coffee with too much sugar. And, I had been struggling in solitude for a few days so I was eager to pick his brain and share some “Me too!” moments.

He was very kind to my scattered mind, patient while I filtered through the details and shared thoughts on the project and what we needed to move forward. In a very exciting outcome, he has agreed to work with us to digitize the tapes and show me some tricks of the trade! Oh, so exciting!! Because of some upcoming projects, he couldn’t edit the entire project with us but is willing to volunteer to help me get it in the best shape possible before we get someone else to add the final touches. I could have kissed the ground he walked on! Finally, someone that can help guide me through this ever-frustrating portion of the project. I’m so grateful!

When our late breakfast concluded, we set plans to get back together on Sunday, July 6. He gave me some suggestions, which I couldn’t have agreed with more and have some direction for the coming days in regard to editing.

And, later that night, even more good news! Finally! Installation complete!! Houston, we have lift off! After many CDs and hours of installation, I have now upgraded my OS X software and installed Final Cut Pro.

Later that day I visited with my grandmother and uncle in Goldsboro. It was great to spend time with family, and helped me recognize my respect for service men. My grandfather, who passed away in 1998, was a Marine. He was an incredible man who served in World War II. July 5th was their wedding day. I’ve heard many say, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” With fondness, I remember his bumper sticker that simply stated: Semper Fi.

Sunday, June 29
Looked through some of the footage. Started rewinding tapes. Tried to connect the camera to my computer, but was unsuccessful. Did install the LaCie drive successfully, though. Other than that, there wasn’t much film-related business to report! I did, however, enjoy some time doing house keeping and improv! (And begging of a friend to help me with shooting this week. More on that later.)

Monday, June 30
Another day of great news (film related, any way)! More on that to come later, but things are moving ahead full steam. I have quite a busy week lining up right now, but am looking forward to it!