Saturday, March 19, 2011

culture night 2011 recap

Last Sunday (March 6) was USC Nikkei's Culture Night, and it has taken me this long to recover from the stress and chaos to compose this blog post.  CN was about a month earlier than normal so it was truly a marathon.  In addition to being Artistic Director and Media Producer like last year, I was also the Scriptwriter.
Our shows always incorporate a creative aspect along with a serious issue.  In a nutshell, the theme this year was magic and newspapers.  Rafu Shimpo is a struggling Japanese American newspaper in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo.  Last year, they announced their financial difficulties publicly, and the community has been pulling together to save it.  When I read about it in the L.A. Times, I knew that I wanted to write a show about Rafu.  Its rich history is becoming lost as the older generations are aging.  The newspaper industry in general is becoming overtaken by the free and instant news provided by the internet.  As a writer, I wanted to spread awareness about the value of newspapers both as a source of information and as a treasured representation of the community- past, present, and future, whether in print or in digital archives.

The show was titled "If You Wish" and followed Vince, a college dropout, and Ruby, a writer for Rafu Shimpo.  Through a twist of fate, both become recipients of winning raffle tickets.  The prize: one wish granted by a professional Genie.  Two winners, one prize, huh?  Vince and Ruby must negotiate a compromise before the wish expires in two weeks.  As they attempt to find a solution, Vince realizes that his problems are petty in the scope of Rafu Shimpo's problems.  He even learns that his ties to Rafu are stronger than he had ever imagined.  In the end, Vince and Ruby agree on a wish and move forward with hope as they work to preserve Rafu Shimpo.

I worked on the script for almost a year.  I outlined and wrote the bulk of it during the summer when I volunteered at the library where my mom works.  In the mornings, she would be busy at her computer while I wrote at her desk and waited for my supervisor to come in at around 10:00.  Bits of it were also written on plane rides to and from Chicago, or in my sister's bunk bed during the commercial breaks when we watched "Everybody Loves Raymond."  Most of Act II was written on the Nikkei ski trip over MLK weekend.  The Golden Globes were airing live on the TV behind me as I typed away on my computer, determined to finish the script in the tradition of Sean finishing CN scripts during ski trip.

It blew my mind to watch the characters come life and watch the plot unfold.  I filled the script with inside jokes and my personal touch.  For example, the characters of the grandparents were based on my parents, and I loved seeing the audience's reactions to their comic relief.  Writing the show and absorbing the audience's reaction on March 6 reminded me of how much power the written word commands.  It gives me the power to entertain, to make people laugh, and most of all, to make people think.  My heart is filled with so much gratitude for people's gracious responses to the show, to everyone who said that it was fun and made them laugh, to Sean who told me that he couldn't have thought of a better ending or a better scriptwriter, to a senior who would like to remain anonymous and sent me a Facebook message that night to tell me, "just wanted to say CONGRATS on (don't tell anyone else this) what I think was the best CN/script ever!"

This year wasn't perfect (biggest bummer: the camcorder battery died in Act II and I didn't know about it because I was too busy backstage so we're missing about three scenes).  There is a lot more we could have improved upon if we had more time,  but it was all I could have asked for, and I am so thankful for everyone involved and for everyone who encouraged me along the way.  Writing a script, filming and editing footage, and making artistic decisions is no easy task, and every bit of support made it all worthwhile.
Next year, I'm planning to be the official Culture Night director.  I was pretty set on NOT being CN Director, but the exhilaration of creating a show and seeing people's responses is something that I can't get enough of.  I've been a part of CN since my freshman year, each year learning more and thinking about how I can make it better the following year.  Yes, it will be my senior year and I will also be very focused on my senior IML thesis, but that's not holding me back.
Some of my favorite college memories have been a result of Culture Night.  I made my first friends at USC because of it.  I want to continue fostering this sense of friendship as we unite to voice a deeper message.

The following are a few promos and video transitions I made for the show.  They might not make sense out of context, but I think you can still get a laugh out of them.  There is one more video (the curtain call that we like to call TED [The Everybody Dance]) that my friend Jessie and I are still editing.  The TED version that we showed that night was very roughly spliced.  I'll post it when we finish it!

I know this video is a little slow, but I wasn't using the ideal video editing software so I couldn't adjust the frame rate to a smaller increment.  I could go back to speed it up now, but I'm too lazy to re-edit the sound effects.  Sorry!

1 comment:

  1. haha! these are awesome :) how cool are you, woman?!
    cn sounds like a lot of fun


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