interviews

May 16, 2019

Why care about the environment?

Because it’s all we’ve got!

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The environment, in terms of the ecology of a place, is in trouble. And we’re all wearing too many pants.

Environment as ambience is a little more subjective … so we’re doing OK there.

May 8, 2019

Real and fake ... are they just constructs?

Uncle Foreigner gets really existential

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There’s a lot of worry about knock-offs and fakes in China … which was kind of our point of departure for this episode. Yes, when you search for Swiffers on Taobao you can find “Steves.” But, we wanted to push the concept further and consider the nature of reality as a whole.

Also, someone told us to “go back to your own country.” So that was special.

Dec 20, 2018

Getting around problems

Who dares interrupt the Cane?!

Sometimes your own two feet need a little extra help. Well, never fear. The Cane is here!

The shoot of our fiction piece was fairly painless this week … because we did a ton of organization pre-production. First pass was some pretty tight blocking of the action, and then second, we made a pretty detailed shot list. We did a run-through a few times the day of, and made sure we were totally happy with how our shots were laid out. And then … ACTION?

In the edit, we had to cut a couple of lines that I loved from an early draft of the script, but they just didn’t fit. It continues to be true that what you leave out of your work can be as important as what you put into it. If you’re curious, the lines were a reference to the fact that astronauts have to run on treadmills to maintain bone density. I am fascinated by this idea, but it didn’t work within the flow of our final script.

Nov 25, 2018

You’re eating fat birds

Thanksgiving in China, behind-the-scenes

Presenting our very special Thanksgiving episode! Which features very little of the real, traditional American Thanksgiving!

Our friends were so great to help us out filming this. You may not be able to tell from the video, but none of them are professional actors. They’re just our friends ;)

Also, I am notorious for overestimating people’s level of English reading. Back when I was writing lessons for middle schoolers, I’d have to revise them at least three times to make them simpler. The same happened here, but I was able to do some quick rewrites on the fly to find everyone’s level. And, as you can see in “Behind the ‘Facts,’” they practiced like mad to get it perfect!

When working with friends and amateurs, Peter and I try to be as organized as possible, so we’re not wasting anyone’s donated time. We also try to keep an eye on the fun level in the room. Originally in our script, we had a few more sequences to film, but by the time we go all the individual lines filmed, we decided to call it a wrap. Everyone had worked really hard, but they were still enjoying the evening. I felt like we could have pushed it and gotten the extra jokes, but the mood would have turned from “friendship through a difficult challenge!” to “this slog is never-ending and we’re not friends after tonight.”

Something that always impresses our non-filmmaking friends is our slate. It’s such an iconic signifier of the movie business, that people are really impressed to see one in action. The real reasons we use one are two-fold. Firstly, when you’ve got a lot of video files to sort through and upload, it’s helpful to have a literal signpost stating “Scene 1, shot C, take 3.” This way, you don’t have to scrub through the entire file to figure out what’s going on in a given shot. Secondly, the clap gives you a spike in the sound that is incredibly helpful in matching video with the recorded audio. Our software is OK at doing that automatically, but I have had to do it by hand more than a few times.

So another Thanksgiving has come and gone. For the past few years, our actual Thanksgiving celebration has been going to Peter’s Tex Mex for the expat turkey extravaganza, and this year was no different. Except, this year they comped us our meal! Thanks, Peter’s! Luzhou is always welcoming us, all over town.

Nov 18, 2018

Cultivated progress: Making art, individuality & punks behind Chinese walls

Uncle’s Shorts #38

We tackle Art this week, in about 8 minutes. So, you know … it’s pretty thorough.

The ending animation we did with our new Adonit Pixel stylus and this nifty animation app I found for my iPad. Animation, as you may know, is pretty labor intensive, but it’s also a lot of fun, so we’re excited to start expanding our repertoire in that direction.

Dave’s interview takes place outside of Luzhou, actually, in a suburb called Naxi. He brought us to this great little BBQ place, where you cook your own meats right on the table. I love cooking my own meats right on the table!

Nov 10, 2018

True electric power

Uncle’s Shorts #37: Visiting a Chinese temple

Luzhou autumn starts cold and rainy and ends colder and rainier, but there’s always a brief window of weather that’s just, like, the Platonic ideal of a beautiful fall day. This year, my friend Michael invited me out for a hike during that time, and even though I was incubating a cold, there was no way I could say no. If the sun is out, you must go.

We took a trip out to Fawang Temple, about an hour outside Luzhou. Peter and I had been out to the temple on Fangshan Mountain a few times, but Fangshan is for tourists, Michael told me. He said that Fawang was much better. And he was right. It was gorgeous and peaceful, and a really nice day outside of the city.

This week’s Uncle’s Shorts episode also features an interview with a young man English-named Curly. He was Peter’s student back at Tianfu Middle School, and for many years now has been living in Singapore pursuing his higher education. This interview takes place before he shipped out; at the time he told us that he got travel sick on the trip from his nearby hometown to Luzhou, but it seems like he made it to Singapore OK.