S&V / Weeks 5-7 / Looking for 語言

Looking for 語言 (Language): Video Portrait by Paula Leonvendagar, Sejo Vega-Cebrián, Anne-Michelle Gallero

From the very moment that we started talking about what we were going to do for this 4-week video project, Paula, Sejo and I were all in agreement that we wanted to do a documentary style portrait. That following Sunday after we formed our group, we went to the PBS POV Digital Lab NYC to get some inspiration. It was eye-opening to see how people were adding interactivity to their video projects and documentaries, like using VR, 360-degree cameras or just having the viewers choose storylines to follow.

Our next step was to choose a subject that everyone in the group would be excited about. We all brought some ideas of possible portraits ranging from a NYC waitress/actress/writer, reporter/editor, a homeless person to Ken Perlin, an NYU professor for Computer Science who created a computer graphic’s texture used in the movie, Tron. Sejo didn’t get a response from Perlin in time before the storyboard deadline, so we sadly didn’t pursue that route. Paula did have a really interesting conversation with a classmate which lead to the subject of our video, an anonymous portrait in Chinatown. ITP has a large population of foreign students, living in NYC and even the United States for the first time. It was something that we wanted to explore and that some of us (as international students) can relate to. Our storyboards were made up of all these different places that were visual and colorful pockets of New York’s Chinatown. Our subject had only been living there for a month or so, and the area was fairly new to her.


During filming, we decided to use two Canon 5D cameras for handheld use with a 50mm lens and another for a tripod with a 24-105mm lens. We were moving around the city pretty fast at night and using a handheld was really helpful in capturing the spontaneous moments. We were following our subject around Chinatown after her long day of classes and went where she wanted to go. Because of this, our storyboards went a little off script but it was her walk around town.

We had so much video that we shot and I commend Sejo and Paula for editing the piece down to shape and clarify the story. After getting feedback from the rough cut without sound, it was good to hear everyone’s opinions on the pacing and creating some quieter moments in this busy piece.


With all the material that we collected that night, we could work on this video forever, but this really was a 4-week crash course in video and Adobe Premiere editing. I do plan on watching the watching the 10-hour Premiere tutorial on lynda.com at a more leisurely pace. And Marina’s slides are awesome and quick sources to use cause I do plan on pursuing these mediums of storytelling. When I was an undergrad, I majored in Visual Arts concentrating on filmmaking and photography, but didn’t end up doing that as a career after college. It was good to get behind the cameras again cause it was something that I loved to do, but haven’t had the opportunity to do. Although the footage that I shot from my first shoot was a little shaky and sometimes out of focus, I was definitely more conscientious about learning from my mistake. When I shot additional footage on a second outing, I figured out how to move the camera steadier and had my fingers constantly adjusting the lens for better focus. I also worked with a curious and talented group that gave lots of encouragement during the process to be creative and to learn while having some celebratory moments over Tsingtao and soup dumplings.

S&V / Week 4 / Storyboards and Synopsis

I partnered up with Paula Leonvendagar and Sejo Vega-Cebrián to work on our video portrait of an international student from China living in New York for the first time. One of the creative challenges of this project is that it will be an anonymous portrait where we will not reveal her face but concentrate on her words and the images of Chinatown. Below is our synopsis and storyboards for her story.




Looking for 我最喜欢的洗发水
It’s her first time in Chinatown, she just arrived from China to New York as an international student studying in the United States. In this colorful and fascinating neighborhood, we walk with her. Listening to her thoughts and first impressions about the city, and this city inside the city.

Chinatown. Is it like mainland China for her? Or is it different? Does she like the food, the places, the people? Can she find a little bit of home here? How does this international student from China feel in a tight-knit community of Chinese-Americans?

Through this anonymous portrait with a subjective sight, we follow a fresh perspective on the Chinese community in New York City and take a glimpse into the mysterious culture of China.


This small 3-5 minutes piece will be a point of view of our character and her experiences around the town, though we will work mostly with a handheld camera as her P.O.V. Despite this we will use some wide shots to settle our character in the context of the big city and it ́s visual richness. We will never see her face, just her silhouette, shadow and her tiny body lost in the multitude of the town. We want to keep this anonymous voice that will help to maintain a poetic mystery through the piece and also to get deeper into her intimate perceptions. We want to capture both, her fresh and sharp sight and all the intensity and beauty of Chinatown.

The sound will be composed through the narrative of her voice, the sounds of the city and some music. In the music we will mix new compositions and traditional music from China, to create the feeling of contrast in between different generations from China.

S&V / Week 2-3 / To be Listened on a Couch with Eyes Closed


A sound piece made with Regina Cantu de Alba and inspired by Octavia Butler’s short story “Bloodchild.”

With this project, I learned to strip away the pictures that I’m so comfortable with and concentrate on tones and sounds that me and my partner recorded and later edited in Adobe Audition. I used to listen to lots of audio books with my eyes closed and would fall asleep to them. It’s an experience to focus solely on the sounds and to let the blank visual canvas of your mind wander away. And that’s hard to do nowadays when everyone is so plugged into their smart phones and social media.

Listening to the sound piece in the dark with the rest of the class and hearing the feedback was interesting. I definitely was influenced by the sound walk and Pejk Malinovski’s talk. I loved how the sounds took me on a journey and that’s what our intention was with the piece. Collaboration with Lola was also a big pleasure. Her initial interpretation of the story as ‘points of entry vs. the expected’ was our base for the emotional values that we collected in our sounds. And the freedom for both of us to explore and experiment in sound collecting and editing separately was good in combining different perspectives. Then later coming back together to combine our finds and discover things together, like recording interesting sounds in the stairwell with specials mics and chia pudding. This was all key to making a piece that we’re both happy with.

A lesson that I will take for the next sound project is to bring some sort of buffer on the Zoom to cancel out the wind when recording outside or to just take a stick mic instead for cleaner sounds with less distortion.

S&V / Week 1 / Passing Stranger

I chose the Passing Stranger (East Village Poetry Walk) by Pejk Malinovski as my audio tour. I lived in the East Village for almost a decade and 9th Street has a special place in my memories. I was curious to learn more about the history and poetry scene of the East Village. As a palm-sized time machine weaving me in and out of the many memories of poets like Allen Ginsberg, W.H. Auden and Frank O’Hara, the layered audio of the narrator, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch paired with the street sounds, clear walking instructions and music created such an immersive experience. There were moments where you’re standing in front of an apartment building and you can imagine seeing Jack Kerouac on the fire escape or Ginsberg sending down his keys in a sock to come up. I even climbed up the stairs to poet Anne Waldman’s 33 St. Marks Place apartment building, which is now a piercing and tattoo parlor, to see if I could figure out where they put their time capsule (of a hit of acid, a Valium, a joint and a poem) that they left behind in the late 1960s. The music on this adventure was also good in setting the tone of the time period. You feel the hipness when the Velvet Underground music plays around Cooper Square and try to figure out where Andy Warhol stood to being in that lyric jazz piece of the 1950s Beat Generation. And then you can make a turn to the Latin groove of Avenue C where you start walking to your own beat.


Since we’re in the midst of gathering our own sounds for our short piece audio project, the approach of layering different perspectives of spoken word with music and abstract sounds as done in the East Village Poetry Walk is a technique to try and have fun with. My group partner and I are also playing with the idea of taking samples from songs that best express certain feelings that we want to convey, then possibly looping and fading them together to create our own remix. This leads to that dilemma of the readings this week: influence vs plagiarism and who’s intellectual property is it? I’m a huge Bob Dylan fan and I love those songs that sound too similar to his “influences/inspirations.” But it makes me think of the huge number of Dylan covers done by successful musicians who Dylan inspired. Some of these themes are also `so common and universal that there’s bound to be a couple people thinking of the same idea (like a broken heart or love lost), and it’s just a race to see who executes it first. You can also see this acts of imitation/flattery as a way for pieces to live longer and be introduced to younger generations.

It’s also interesting to see how “blues and jazz musicians have long been enabled by a kind of “open source” culture,” as noted in Jonathan Lethem’s The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism. The whole idea of open source where people can built upon what others have built to add on to a foundation or create their own cog in the machine, sometimes collaboration with lots of different expertise can make a better product.

Back when I was living in the East Village, I was going through my own heartbreak when I saw Michel Gondry’s movie, Eternal Sunshine Of a Spotless Mind. Jon Brion’s music score of the movie really connected with me. It was melancholy but whimsical and uplifting. I was fortunate enough to see his one man show in Brooklyn the beginning of the summer and it was amazing to see him on stage laying/playing all the individual tracks together. Here’s a clip from one of his show in NY this past year of Brion covering Dylan.