institute for documentary studies

{Week 6: Photo}

Week 6: Photo

Apparently, I’ve adopted the Asian beat.

I’ve been trying, for the past couple of weeks, to find a story on the traditional Asian immigrant family.  I thought it’d be a good way to explore my own family’s history, and also — as a California transplant in a new city with relatively very few Asians — to figure out why people come here to live, instead of say, New York, where the community is significantly larger. How do people hold on to their culture when the community is a fragment of the size? How do they stay close? — All questions I wanted to explore.

I can’t speak too much about my current project, but I will say that I found a Chinese family that is, perhaps, the complete opposite of what I had originally envisioned. Their family is a non-traditional one, and one I would have never thought of when doing my initial research – it goes to show you (or rather, me) the unexpected places your stories will lead you, if you let them.

Their friends — also part of a non-traditional Chinese family – even offered me two story ideas (one even involves a half-Asian guy, I was told.) My instructors have been telling me that everything settles once you start working on your projects, and I understand now what they meant. Having my story and knowing what I need to do lends itself to a new focus, and calm.

Earlier in the week, with only two out of my three projects accounted for, I told myself to follow any and every hint of a story I might have. Sometimes I procrastinate on putting out calls, because still, even with experience cold calling, I have to pump myself up in order to act the proper journalist. Over time, I’ve developed an intricate process of phone call prep that involves practicing my intro, anticipating the arbitrary responses, not actually making the call — then telling myself, “you got this.”

So I followed, calling contacts I’d put aside from my Asian immigrant story research, and from there, the stories flowed. One woman, as it turns out, will gladly participate in my video profile assignment, and the members of the Chinese Gospel Church welcomed me, and served the first real Chinese food I’ve eaten in months! I’ve met some more people to speak with — and if nothing else comes from it, at least my website got a couple more hits.
The class as a whole has been struggling with its multimedia stories: We all want them to be perfect, and for some of us, we’ve been hemming and hawing over our pieces, waiting for everything to align just-so. Our instructor, Anne, gave us the talking-to we needed: Just get started, she said.
It may not be the idea you’ve imagined in all its perfection, but you need to have one in the first place, she told us.  Stop waiting. For me, it was the dose of reality I needed to get moving.

It’s hard when you want everything to be the model of sophisticated technique, when you supposedly are in control of all the elements of the piece — to remember that ultimately, these projects are experiments. We’re students – not professionals — ultimately here to learn, and for most of us, this is the first time we’ll be finding and shooting our own multimedia work. Imperfection will be a part of the process, too.