Around a month ago, I wrote, performed, and edited (with a help of Terri’s filming talent, thank you!) and submitted my début film to the DeafHope’s Lavender Film Festival. This video is very special to me not only because it is my first film that I edited entirely by myself, but because the subject is very heavy and sensitive and painful. If it never happened to me, I would not have a gut to create something like this, but it did and I just felt I had to do it. When the project was finished, it’s like I underwent an emotional purging and it was a really surreal experience.
Thank you DeafHope for making me do it. It’s truly a great honor being part of something remarkable and meaningful. I applaud to all other who submitted in their films, even through I haven’t seen theirs yet, I know they are brave enough to spread awareness that it is okay to speak up. Also thank you everyone who’s involved in this film, without you, it will not happen. Thank you again!
“Accept no ones’ definition of your life; define yourself.”
Catherine MacKinnon, one of my dearest friends, is the co-founder and director of the Toronto International Deaf Film & Arts Festival. The first festival was hosted in 2006 and it is still going strong. This year, the jury board received a record number of film submissions and selected over twenty films, both short and feature, of the wide range in genres from around the world. I’m very proud of you, Cats!
Please check the website out and contribute in any way you can. TIDFAF is one of the fastest growing Deaf festivals in the world, but it is not just a festival. It is also the non-profit organization that promotes the public awareness of Deaf artists and filmmakers from Canada and other countries and strives to build a bridge between them and the mainstream arts and film world. I’m all for that! Please share this post with your family and friends, your support is greatly appreciated! Thank you!
When Rex and I returned home in Austin last July (thank you all for your sweet comments on the photos posted on my Facebook wall and Instagram!). I felt much better as a whole person. I could just drop the entire project and move on with my life, focus on Rex and go back to school and find a job, etc., but there’s something deep inside me that just flat out refuses let me give up.
I spent the entire month doing serious soul searching to find the answers to my questions about my film project. Why am I doing it? Will doing it and reliving those memories be good for me emotionally and mentally? Do I want to just shut him out and banish him from my memory forever? Does Renny deserve to have a movie about him? Indeed, he is center of the story, but it’s my story. It’s also the story of many other women and men who experienced or are experiencing the life with substance abuse and domestic violence. It’s easy to look down at drug addicts and dismiss them, but ask anybody who knows, addiction is a disease. It is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde disease. I survived it, I may as well as use my film as the method of telling my story.
I know there are many more people out there who went through similar experiences, but sometimes I feel like I am the only one because I’m a full-time mother and I have to stay home most of time. I have to admit that I haven’t been to Al-Anon meetings. Renny encouraged me to attend one when he was attending NA meetings back then. I thought I could handle it. Man, I was wrong. I know I should have went to the meetings. I should also see a counselor, but I’m not comfortable with sharing my experiences through an interpreter. It doesn’t matter how good he or she is, I don’t like the fact that a third party is involved. I can’t always be sure all my information is conveyed 100% accurately to the counselor. It is already hard enough just talking about this on my blog post; I still have a harder time talking about this in person. I have to swallow my pride before I explain to somebody who asked. The shame is still inside me and I am trying to let it go. I saw this quote somewhere and it can’t be any truer. “There is no shame in making mistakes. All we must do is get over our pride and admit we were wrong.”
To many of you who wrote to me about your experiences: Thank you for sharing with me. I’d like to reach out to other people like you. Your letters help me building my confidence to make my film project happen. I also want to get in touch with the advocates too. If you know of any good support groups in the Austin area, please share in the comment space below. Catherine, my awesome producer and friend, and I are planning something really cool. We’ll make the announcement in a week or two. Last, but not least, please Like on our Facebook page and follow our blog! Thanks so much!
Academy Awards Nominees for the Best Documentary Features
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you ever got in your career?
Once someone gave me a little trinket from Japan. It was a wooden frog. They told me that the beauty of the frog is that it can’t move backwards nor sideways but can only leap forward. It was a reminder to stay focused. To this day I bring that frog with me on every shoot and it hangs out on my desk when I edit.
This was a question on the 84th Academy Awards Nominee Questionaire answered by T.J. Martin. He, along with Dan Lindsay and Rich Middlemas, won the Oscar for best Documentary Feature for their work, “Undefeated.” They followed the Manassas Tiger team, the dark horse from the inner-city district of Memphis, in their battle through the 2009 football season to eventually win the first playoff game in their high school’s 110 years history.
I like the frog metaphor because it really hits home for me. I have nowhere to go with no choice but to move forward. However, I learned that some of the things that happened in our past are important enough to preserve and pass on to our next generation. We lived and experienced many days where there were events that changed our lives forever, and often we don’t make a record of them. Maybe we thought, at those times, that they were too personal or not important enough to be memorialized. Then, years later when we reflect on those days, we realize they were the most important days in our lives and we have nothing but memories of it to hold on to. That’s the beauty of documentaries. “Undefeated” may talk about winning one game, but to those players, that game was the most important game of their lives. Once that game was over, they must move on. We all must move on forward. The difference between them and most of us is that now they will have a tangible memory of that life-changing game because it was documented.
I’ve always wished that my life would be as fantastic as Chelsea Clinton in the White House or dramatic as Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family or unique as Jessica Watson, the youngest person to sail around the world solo at age 16. I wished my life is at least that interesting. After last two years I’ve come to term that every single life is worth being documented, regardless how uneventful a life can be. No matter how long a life is, or where the journey is, it’s the sixty seconds in a minute in which a life is changed matters the most. When your life is changed 180 degree in sixty seconds (or ten or two), that is when things start getting interesting. I just happened to have hours and hours of footage about a few life-changing moments on my desk that I believe are worthy to see.
I want to hear from you, those of you who are the experienced and emerging documentary filmmakers. What is the most valuable advice given to you in your career? What is your favorite part of the filmmaking process and what is the most challenging part? What advice will you give to somebody who is getting into the documentary world (like me!)?
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