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Picture an anthropomorphic monkey in Green Tang Dynasty Bronze Armor, complete with lamellar plating on the front, holding a 6-foot staff that is colored red and yellow. He quickly rips out his armor to reveal a tiger skin tunic and puts on a large yellow cap, and proceeds to swing his staff at the various monsters that surround him. Now imagine having to shoot an entire film, with this as a mere premise, in only a day. What a strange answer for the question regarding what I do with my weekends.
People frequently credit me with being the person who comes up with the strangest, and yet sometimes most successful ideas. Every year in Chinese class we have a large project in terms of scale; one year, it’s a detailed biography, another, it was a storybook, complete with professional level illustrations, to be done again in alphabet book form the next year.
That same year there was one major project that needed to be done; It was my friend’s last year, and although he is a year older than me, he had so much more to learn about the language, because, well, the language was completely new to him. I knew some before taking the class, and my first challenge was cut out for me. I had to increase his Chinese vocabulary. Challenge two was getting a group of friends with similar dispositions. Challenge three was making a full, entertaining movie.
I suggested that we follow a Chinese Classical Tale- The Monkey King, also called Journey to the West. An ancient Chinese story written as a dramatization of Buddhist monk Tan Seng’s journey to India, there exists several interpretations done by Chinese and foreigner alike in the fields of film, novel, essay, and even graphic novel as well as animation. Therefore, we had plenty to compare our work to, but we feared that the movie would not be very good. Even in the classroom, we were dealing with experienced photographers and actors, even decent writers and artists. It was necessary to have a “standout point”. Therefore, I suggested that we try to be bad.
My friends look at me funny for a moment, but we run with it. We worked together with costumes, stories and acting, with me directing the choreography, the camerawork, gags, and other bits and pieces that make a movie memorable- or, more accurately, complete. Editing was also my work, as I created my own sound effects and selected my own music. I decided to play the evil warlord who decides to attack people without provocation, one with malice and greed; I fit the bill because I am fat, wide-shouldered, and capable of flailing my arms- all essential to being a villain in a kid’s movie- or a poorly made adult one. For a costume, I simply wore a blanket as a cape. To put a spin on the tale of the monkey, I made my second language-newbie friend look more like a bad cop than a monkey. Choreography was intentionally clumsy; we implemented weapon fights, where, instead of kung fu, we would simply swing our weapons at each other, groaning, yelling like gladiators. I convinced my sister to assist us in camera work also.
Effectively, I was director, producer, and co-star. Not surprisingly, the result reminded me of cheesy movies made in the 1980s. Every time I think about it, I want to slap on a blanket for a cape and start yelling about how I would take over the world.
If this lesson acted as a teacher to me in any way, all I can say is that I was shocked that I could solve all 3 aforementioned challenges so easily and in an innovative way that really set our project apart from others’. It bolstered, even fortified the faith I have in myself to develop a means of being unique. Let’s swing our swords at that dastardly monkey!
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