UPDATED:  August 26, 2007 11:53 PM
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By: Amanda Andrei

 WASHINGTON, D.C.—Crowded around the tripod and jeep, the seven students do not seem to mind the fact they have been standing for hours in 90-degree weather without a lunch break.  One girl translates script directions to an actor as a boy balances a reflector, highlighting the actor's face.  A couple of students discuss their ideas with the instructors as they try handling the audio equipment.  The other students take turns focusing, zooming, and panning the camera for the perfect shot.   

These teenagers barely knew each other a few weeks ago when they arrived at their first Point of View (POV) Workshop in early July.  Developed from an idea by two of the instructors, Vincent Huang and Chris Tsou, the workshop serves as a six-week crash course in filmmaking for APA youth between the ages of sixteen and nineteen.  Each Saturday morning, the students metro to the Georgetown Day High School in Washington D.C. to learn a different element of cinematography.  "We're fitting a year's worth of information and experience into just six Saturdays!" exclaims Nguyen Nguyen, a film/video teacher at GDHS and POV instructor.  The end result: a five-minute student-produced film premiering at the 8th Annual DC APA Film Festival.  

"It takes a couple classes for teens to get comfortable with strangers," notes Mike Song, another POV teacher and member of the festival's programming committee, "but once that happens, the creativity just gushes out of them."  After the third teaching session and hours of brainstorming, the students already began arranging meetings independent of the workshop in order to further develop their script and storyboards.  Most important to them was the message of their film.     

"It was difficult to find the story that we were going to film because there were so many good ideas, and it was hard to choose one," recalls George Yeh, a sophomore at the University of Maryland.  Between the seven participants, ideas tossed around included everything from a detective mystery to a high school romance, from an art documentary to a coming-of-age story.  The students wanted a film that would convey a message from their perspective as APA youth and dramatize issues they dealt with on a regular basis.  Finally, they chose a storyline depicting the dynamics between a son's passions and his father's expectations. 

With mainstream media's tendency to under-represent or stereotype, the film industry needs more artists and visionaries to build positive and realistic images of Asian Americans.  POV's emphasis on teaching youth adds a new facet to the APA film experience.  Grace Yeon, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, says, "Teaching young Asian Americans how to make films gives us a different way to express ourselves in a way that we're not accustomed to."  Vincent Huang, a member of the DC APA Film Board of Directors and programming committee, adds, "We knew that if we put a camera in their hands, we'd create a story that drew upon their experiences that would be channeled through a powerful medium."  The more individuals involved, the more voices heard and stories told—and a more complete picture of the APA community emerges. 

After intense hours of learning the nuances of the cameras, plotting a story, and filming around GDHS, students felt confident when it came down to recording the action for their short film.  "I was under the impression that the only type of filmmaking was the huge, expensive undertaking I'd seen on DVD behind-the-scene segments," admits Joanne Mosuela, a second-year at the University of Virginia.  "Because of POV, now I can wrap my mind around the prospect of making a movie on my own."  In this way, the POV Workshop accomplished its mission of empowering APA youth and giving them a voice through film.  "Hopefully by demystifying the production process, we can encourage more APA youth to consider film as a legitimate and accessible tool of expression," remarks Chris Tsou, a producer for Ventana Productions.

So far, one of the most challenging parts of the seminar is the lack of time to produce the film.  Vivian Yun, a freshman at James Madison University, suggests, "I would extend the program, or have more guest speakers to teach us."  Another difficulty included the shoestring budget of the workshop—all of the equipment was borrowed from GDHS and Ventana, and most of the props were brought by the students.  "My dream is that one day this workshop will be sponsored by Canon and Apple and some random billionaire and we'll be able to rent helicopters and blow things up," jokes Mike Song.  Despite the time and monetary obstacles, the students poured their energy and creativity into making their short movie.  "Their willingness to dive head first into every stage of the script-to-screen process has been humbling," acknowledges Chris Tsou.

Before the POV Workshop, most of the students had little or no experience working with film.  After the last Saturday, all of them remain optimistic about future involvement with moviemaking, whether on the professional or amateur level.  "I look forward to the near future when invites to each others' film screenings begin to circulate," Joanne Moseula quips.  As for the workshop itself, "Hopefully more Asian Americans will apply for this program and bring more positive influences in media," Vivian Yun remarks. 

Even though the summer and workshop have both ended, the students heading back to their high schools and colleges leave with valuable skills and unique friendships.  But POV has not ended completely.  "I hope to see this as part of a sustainable process," Vincent Huang explains.  "Kids come in to learn, they come back to help, they return to teach."   With such creativity and enthusiasm from the APA youth this year, there is no doubt that next year's POV Workshop will be in good hands.

The students' short film, Stage Right, will premiere at the DC APA Film Festival on Thursday, September 27.  For more information on locations and times, go to www.apafilm.org.

POV1: Students check their camera before filming as the instructors supervise them.

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