Blog Posts

vacilando: when the experience is more important than the destination

Clear Eyes, Full Heart

The night before graduation, my roommate asked my family how I’ve changed since 2012. (Way to put ‘em on the spot, A.)

My brother said I post fewer photos (lol). Daddy said I’m less long-winded and broader in perspective (#liberalarts). And Mommy started crying because God’s unfolding vision for me surpasses anything she ever imagined.

That was a wondrous moment. When you love your children so much, it’s a sacrifice to let go and entrust them to the growing pains of the learning process. A bit like seeping an alpine berry teabag from Joe Van Gogh. Tugging the string doesn't steer the bobbing pouch precisely, but no matter its course, we know it will flavor its environment and become part of a yummy, richly colored cup of experience over time.

Well, Momma Choo - I’m a teabag. College has indeed drenched and drained me for the better. Just as President Brodhead welcomed the Trinity College Class of 2016 to the company of "educated men and women,” my time at Duke has taught me how to learn - anywhere.

I know, learning is the least you'd expect to gain from a $250k+ education. But it took me until senior year to really appreciate education as a joyful privilege and formidable force for reconciliation and peacemaking.

As an idealistic shutterbug and doodler with an irrepressible reflex to get inside people’s heads, I have always felt at odds with the persistent expectation of neuroscience students to be premed. It required time away from campus - to learn from communities in Colombia and communicators at InterVarsity - for me to reorient my worldview around Story and return motivated to lean in to the tension of understanding everyone's narratives. Including mine - this seemingly fractured mosaic of faith, documentary, neuro, a cappella, education, justice, AAPI heritage, and foodie fusion that forms my identity.

My favorite turning point in Captain America: Civil War is the story of a son's life cut short in Sokovia, which moves self-identified “genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist” Tony Stark to get real with the A-Team and seek accountability for their power and privilege. Being at Duke, I think we’ve all been there too. It’s challenging to "find your heart” under the intellectual and social pressure to be effortlessly “genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropists.”

And so, amidst all the voices and global resources of the Duke community, I am thankful for every invitation to know and be truly known. These past four years have taught me to value authenticity over ability; to ask good questions by listening for nuance; to reconcile different POVs with humble curiosity; to fortify my capacity for empathy and action with self-care; and to continually discern Why I do what I do in this lifelong dance with truth and grace.

I entered Duke with the expectations of an entitled earner. As a new song begins, I celebrate our next steps forward with the posture of a lifelong learner. Every voice who has joined in thus far: Thank you. Because of you, I graduate with clear eyes and a full heart. Like a warm cuppa tea. :)

A Fuller Frame

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I attended my first documentary film festival this month, and it felt like home. Like home, Full Frame pulsed with the lifeblood of kindred storytellers. And like home, Full Frame required immense physical and emotional stamina to fully engage with the humanity of each story.

Cameraperson, the (kinda meta) memoir of director-cinematographer Kirsten Johnson, is the story of a life dedicated to telling stories. I resonated so deeply with each scene that, by the end, I had added "Find an artist I trust to tell my story" to my bucket list.

Yet her memoir also left me with the question, "What is the line between sharing a story with compassion and actually doing something within my power to improve the subject's life?"

The same tension arose in me when I watched Speaking Is Difficult, a short by AJ Schnack that juxtaposes everyday scenes of towns affected by mass shootings with the initial 9-1-1 calls. As each new town (including Newtown, CT) appeared onscreen, I felt myself become more desensitized, to my chagrin. In Schnack's words, during "a film where the events themselves become this nonstop echo of each other," my unconcealed anguish in the first minute paled to a grey shiver of resignation in only fifteen minutes.

For the first time, I read this statement by Joseph Stalin yesterday: "One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic." I read it again today in a reflection by social psychologist Christena Cleveland, who writes,

When we witness injustice in an up-close-and-personal way – like if we’re personally oppressed or we’re in close relationship with a person who is oppressed – we tend to open the floodgates of compassion toward the one or few individuals with whom we have a personal connection. But when we witness an injustice from a distance, and this injustice affects masses of people (e.g., police brutality towards black people, the oppression of the Palestinians, etc.) we are easily overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. Rather than fortifying our compassion in response to such need, our compassion collapses and we disengage into hopelessness.

 

After conducting research on this collapse of compassion, social psychologists Daryl Cameron and Keith Payne concluded that “large-scale tragedies in which the most victims are in need of help will ironically be the least likely to motivate helping.”

 

But when we are intimately connected to systemic pain and tragedy, either personally or through close relationships, we are often able to respond with compassion and hope.

During the fifteen minutes of Speaking Is Difficult, my compassion collapsed, and I disengaged into hopelessness. Even while being actively aware of it. Stalin was savage, but he understood the limits of human empathy.

With this concern in mind, I want to share a profound reflection by Wesley Hogan, Director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke (Full Frame program, page 2). I intend to read it often, especially when I'm trapped in the hard questions, because it reminds me why I do what I do.

Most of the stories told throughout human history, writer Julius Lester has said, were spoken into the darkness, around a fire with a vast impenetrable night surrounding teller and listeners. Then as now, stories aren't created from thin air; they already exist, as Lester so evocatively describes, "singing in our genes and in our blood." And stories, especially now, help us to learn that we can be thrown into a fiery furnace and not be consumed. Through stories, Lester says, "I learned that I could withstand the heat and flames and walk out of the furnace, strutting."

 

In order to be seen, stories have to be retrieved from the darkness. The light of film can do this. Documentary, at its best, gives us stories that empower us to not only strut, but also to behold. Whether they illuminate great challenges and triumphs, or share simple observations of daily life, documentarians give us fresh eyes. To see clearly. To see critically, and skeptically. To see from multiple perspectives. To perceive with all of our senses.

 

Documentary reminds us that even amidst a surge of forces vying for our attention in a culture of accelerating change, we can behold, be contemplative. Be deliberate. As such, for me, Full Frame feels like a shining gift - a gathering of those who share this desire to reflect. The alchemy forged so brilliantly by the Full Frame staff makes each filmmaker, story, and audience member important - and each space in which we consider a new story, sacred.

 

In offering us these moments to listen, to slow down, independent documentarians serve as vital public servants, inviting participation in an important public commons for small-d democratic dialogue.

 

There is an ebb and flow of nationalist politics in the United States, and lately we've been encountering the flow. There are some who insist that immigrants must learn to live like "Americans." That there must be one nation, one language, one uniform way of being. They would ask us to believe that difference is dangerous, and that we must practice exclusion, a mindset that runs counter to even the briefest consideration of our own experiences. As documentary so clearly reveals, we benefit when we acknowledge the value and validity of the diverse inheritances that each of us embody. For of course none of us possess and maintain a singular identity over a lifetime. We all inherit and inhabit a variety of selves whose definitions are in constant flux. Documentary allows a space for our multi-vocal, fluid selves to emerge.

 

And so I invite you to immerse yourself in a collection of diverse inheritances this weekend. As Henry David Thoreau noted long ago, only that day dawns to which we are awake. In Durham, at Full Frame, as the theater doors open and beckon, each person we get to know, each subject we explore, each conversation we have, and each film we watch calls forth another story brought in from the shadows and lets us behold the marvelous complexity of our lives.

 

Thank you for enlivening the festival with your vitality and wakefulness.

So: In a media-saturated world, where a daily deluge of stories paralyzes the individual from taking action, the documentary storyteller must emotionally re-engage viewers; illuminate the humanity of stories lost in the darkness of a statistical black box; and in doing so, "give us fresh eyes" to "consider a new story, sacred." Helping each other to see a fuller frame - that's worth celebrating. #FullFrameFest

 

duARTS Festival

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In celebration of the arts, last week was our annual Duke Arts Festival! Besides the beautiful outdoor pianos at the bus stop and plaza, my favorite event was definitely the Student Concert at the Duke Coffeehouse. Just as the apostle Paul wrote his weaknesses, I am so proud of my friend Mikayla for sharing four original songs inspired by her experience of feeling broken and not having it all together. The pressure to achieve effortless perfection is definitely a struggle that many of us can resonate with, so I'm thrilled that our school newspaper recognized her for having the "Most Relatable Lyrics":

Her songs, entitled “Broken,” “Make You Whole,” “Circus” and “Fallen Leaves” resounded with members of the audience. Shatley’s soft, haunting lyrics spoke out against the pressure that many Duke students feel to appear perfect to their peers. She comforted the audience by conveying the message that it isn’t worth it to put on an act for others, and it is better to be honest with the world.

She is one of the students who will be featured in my capstone project, so I am thankful for the opportunity to document her first live performance!

Mikayla prepares to pray beforehand

Mikayla's first performance at Duke Coffeehouse

Veritas

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"Every cut is a lie, but you're telling a lie to tell the truth." Wolf Koenig, filmmaker

I hunger for authenticity. I want to be true to my values and the people whose stories I tell. For my film capstone, I would like to share the stories of two friends in a way that (1) says something meaningful and (2) leaves you feeling like you genuinely know each of them. I want to communicate their stories truthfully, and I want to do as much or as little is needed to help them speak for themselves.

But how possible is it to present truth in film, when film is such a subjective medium? From where you point the camera to how you edit footage, the resulting images represent your point of view, your truth. Filmmaker Dziga Vertov, the father of kinopravda ("film-truth"), believed that the camera could capture reality, but it too is limited to and guided by the perspective of the human eye behind it.

To access more of the reality that we all experience differently, I think a director should make an effort to be aware of her biases and to incorporate as many perspectives on a subject as possible. If truths are partial and perspectival, then what you leave out is just as important as what you leave in.

I started thinking more about film-truth recently after watching three documentaries: Titicut FolliesDesert Migration, and Cowspiracy. They are fascinating to me because, even though they are all produced very differently, each one left me feeling so connected to its story. I feel as if I have experienced honest and true portrayals of reality, and I am now unavoidably part of each narrative.

https://vimeo.com/19933367

Let's start with Titicut Follies (1967). A classic example of cinema verité, it provides a stark observational portrayal of the inhumane conditions at a state institution for the criminally insane. Titicut Follies lacks clear narrative in its raw image sequences, challenging viewers to wrestle their own conclusions from the minimally edited (and often long-take) scenes. Injustice speaks for itself in the film, garnering sympathetic support for the patient-inmates. When I watched it with my classmates, we left feeling as if we had uncomfortably glimpsed more of their reality than we were supposed to, but we knew we could never un-see what we had seen.

https://vimeo.com/80433742

Desert Migration (2015) is much more curated. The film provides a meditative window into the lives of thirteen long-term HIV/AIDS survivors who have migrated to and formed a community in Palm Springs. The script is entirely voiced-over from audio interviews with the men, and the pristine visuals are mainly B-roll edited in a day-in-the-life structure. The directors actually originally interviewed thirty candidates, then narrowed it down to the thirteen most compelling stories. Despite the clear directorial influence and cinematic aesthetic, the overall effect felt intimately personal and organic, as if I was a fly on the wall just “doing life” with them, privy to their innermost thoughts about death and the routines they’ve adopted to go on living with purpose.

https://vimeo.com/95436726

In Cowspiracy (2014), filmmakers Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn make a compelling case for the un-sustainability of the animal agriculture industry and its harmful effects on the environment. Of the three, this film reflects the most directorial influence because Andersen takes on the voice of "the common and curious citizen" as the story's narrator and protagonist. I find myself trusting his leadership in the search for truth because he does a thorough job of inviting people on all sides of the issue to speak (although not everyone accepts the opportunity to present their perspective). To me, his investigation also begs the question, "To whom is the filmmaker responsible to tell the truth: the people in the film, or the intended audience of the film's message?" Andersen does not sugarcoat the pointed silence or evasion of the leaders of top environmental organizations, so they come off poorly in the film. Indeed, midway through his inquiry, he fears for his own safety. As Homicide's J.H. Brodie says in Barbara Kopple’s “Shooting the Truth,” Andersen nonetheless continues “not because [he] wanted to embarrass anybody, but because [he] wanted to tell the truth” and felt a responsibility to the public and the planet we share. And now that I’m facing a personal crisis to become vegan, Cowspiracy appears to be an effective exposé.

It's tricky to unify the three documentaries, but if I had to identify a common element of successful truth-telling, I would say that the films faithfully tell the stories of credible protagonists. In “Sorriest Spectacle: The Titicut Follies,” Richard Schickel writes, “When we enter [Titicut Follies’] microcosm, we cannot forget that its ‘actors’ are there to stay, trapped forever in their own desperate inventions. The knowledge that they cannot wipe-off their makeup, hang up their costumes, and stroll over to Sardi’s for a drink is what gives the film a power more forceful than any artifice can grant.” (461) Likewise, the men in Desert Migration are actors in the beautiful and tragic story of their own lives, and therefore we trust their curated perspectives. With a story that stays true to the "common man"-protagonist-director's personal journey, Cowspiracy brings it home, reminding all of us that the Earth is our stage, and it is up to us to act responsibly NOW if we want to avert a tragic ending to our story IRL.

This final insight - commitment to an authentic portrayal of a personal journey - resonates with me. Joe Berlinger, co-director of the influential Paradise Lost trilogy, calls it experiential filmmaking, in which you share "your emotional truth" as a proxy for audiences to enter into the story you personally experienced. He edits his films to honestly parallel the unfolding narratives that he has experienced in real life, stories that "can't be reduced to black and white" and "have multiple sides to them." Like Andersen and Berlinger, I want to welcome stories into my life that personally challenge me, that I can then invite others into. This experiential filmmaking would require me to actively process my own POV, recognize my biases, and develop a compelling conclusion about the human condition, all in real-time. By keeping track of my own interaction with the story, I hope to develop a clear vision of how to appropriately incorporate my voice into my capstone project.

Work Right

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I heard from two unexpected sources of wisdom this past week: David Johnson, President of Silent Images, and Scott Dikkers, a founding editor of The Onion. It's quite an unlikely pairing. On one hand, by highlighting the beauty of people amidst tragedy, David uses his camera to help "bring justice, freedom, and a voice" to the voiceless. On the other hand, by targeting the "foibles of humanity" everywhere, Scott uses humor to satirize traditional media coverage of current events. Yet as different as they are, both use stories in unexpected, necessary, and ultimately sticky ways that resonate with people. They challenge people to re-evaluate their perspectives of others and recognize their shared humanity - the impact I would like my storytelling to have too. These are some of my takeaways from their talks. "Seeing the World Through a New Lens" (DJ)

https://vimeo.com/107709111

  1. Be a passionate person about everything I do. I'll never know when and where that perfect opportunity will arise.
  2. God has called me to love all people. I can use the camera in my hands to respond to the injustice I see around me.
  3. I am here to serve first, then photograph.
  4. When building a creative team, find people who are smarter than me.
  5. Personal impact of all the tragedy and pain that David has witnessed and documented:
    • Wonder at the depth of God's unconditional love for such a broken humanity
    • Joy and comfort that God is sovereign and will one day restore justice
    • Conviction and responsibility to collaboratively participate in the reconciliation process

"The Funny Story Behind the Funny Stories" (SD)

Scott Dikkers

  1. Nothing is effortless. Even the most naturally talented comedians had to learn how to make people laugh, and often the hard way (e.g. out of necessity as an emotional coping mechanism).
  2. Basic Principles of Creative Leadership
    • Live my mission, and I will become a person of vision. Find out what I need to do or want to do, and just do it. Doing so will create a center of gravity that draws people to me.
    • Invest my passion, not my money. Heart is all I need.
    • Be prepared to scrap everything. If I've invested your money and it's just not working out, maybe I need to redirect my passion.
    • Trust my people. Surround myself with people who are smarter than me, who love what they do, and who need to be doing it to be happy. They will work hard, but I need to trust them.
    • Work right. Learn from those who have gone before me.

Altogether, their advice really encourages me that I'm doing the right thing by focusing on my artistic potential. When I am sharing stories, I feel like I'm doing what I was created to do.

vacilando

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I finally discovered a fitting blog title that I feel really good about!

vacilando / SPANISH (verb) traveling when the experience itself is more important than the destination

I resonate because I created this blog to reflect on my creative process and to invite others into my experience. I think a lot about vision and how they say artists are nothing without vision, which intimidates me whenever I remember that I don't know exactly where I am going. But my summer with 2100 Productions reminded me that it's the process that refines and defines. It's less about Doing than it is about Being. So I'll take that first step. And the next, and the next.

Martin Luther says it well:

This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. The process is not yet finished, but it is going on. This is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified."

Donald Miller also says it well:

The human body essentially recreates itself every six months. Nearly every cell of hair and skin and bone dies and another is directed to its former place... [so] we were designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us. The point of the story is the character arc, the change. (A Million Miles In A Thousand Years)

Ah, many words that bring home the classic idea of Journey > Destination. Now if only there was a word that captured all of the above... Oh wait THERE IS. AND in Spanish too! (I can hear my Colombian friends chiming in now: ¡A la orden!)

I actually learned vacilando from Lost In Translation, a beautiful book I recently bought (from Anthropologie, of all places). Written and illustrated by Ella Frances Sanders, it is a nifty compendium of words from languages all around the world that capture an emotion or experience that most of us can relate to, but cannot easily translate as an English word. It's an awesome conversation starter and the latest addition to my favorite books list. Language really does define the limits of our perceived reality, so this book has already expanded my grasp on life by giving me the vocabulary to communicate experiences that English just can't express.

ALSO, stories have impact because, well, because of language. Sanders nails it in her book intro:

As much as we like to differentiate ourselves...we are all made of the same stuff. ...We meet people from places and cultures different from our own and yet somehow we understand the lives they are living. Language wraps its understanding and punctuation around us all, tempting us to cross boundaries and helping us to comprehend the impossibly difficult questions that life relentlessly throws at us.

...whether you speak a few words of one or a thousand words of many, they help to shape us - they give us the ability to voice an opinion, to express love or frustration, to change someone's mind. For me, making this book has been more than a creative process. It's caused me to look at human nature in an entirely new way, and I find myself recognizing these nouns, adjectives, and verbs in the people I walk by on the street.

Seriously, if I ever decided to write a book, it would've been this book. (Note to self: Learn words that communicate who God is to people of a different culture.)

...y ya! I'll just end with some of my favorite words from the book. They're my favorite for different reasons ranging from super poetic to super creative to super random to SUPER WAOW. Enjoy!

Meraki / GREEK (adjective) pouring yourself wholeheartedly into something, such as cooking, and doing so with soul, creativity, and love

Naz / URDU (noun) the pride and assurance that comes from knowing you are loved unconditionally

Resfeber / SWEDISH (noun) the restless beat of a traveler's heart before the journey begins, a mixture of anxiety and anticipation

Commuovere / ITALIAN (verb) to be moved in a heartwarming way, usually relating to a story that moved you to tears

Hearth / WELSH (noun) a homesickness for somewhere you cannot return to, the nostalgia and the grief for the last places of your past, places that never were **Heaven comes to mind - the home we long for, were created for, but have never been to.

Drachenfutter / GERMAN (noun) literally, "dragon-fodder" - the gift a husband gives his wife when he's trying to make up for bad behavior ** This was the LOLest word in the book for me. I have so much appreciation now for the creativity of the German language. 

Pisanzapra / MALAY (noun) the time needed to eat a banana ** Need to ask my parents about this one

Mångata / SWEDISH (noun) the road-like reflection of the moon in the water ** I originally thought about using this word instead of vacilando. We are moons that reflect the Son, so our "road-like reflection in the water" is the lives we chart as lights in the world. 

Komorebi / JAPANESE (noun) the sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees

#BettaVote

It is difficult to be creative under time pressure, but the burden is light when you have a great team! Duke Students of the World (SOW) is nearing the culmination of our first project this semester, and I am so thankful for the safe space we have created to make mistakes and learn together. Less than two weeks ago, we were approached by community organizers from the Youth Division of North Carolina's NAACP to create a nonpartisan video about the importance of the youth vote. The target audience? Voters of "our generation" who are skeptical and apathetic towards the voting process. The distribution? A national conference this Friday celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

Now, well thought-out videos with national reception rarely happen overnight, let alone three weeks. So it has been a whirlwind journey to brainstorm a compelling and realistic treatment, partner with other artists to build a creative team, and shoot/edit around the tight schedules of Duke students. I realize I need to learn how to plan a shoot better BUT IT IS HAPPENING and I am so grateful and amazed at all the people who have generously volunteered their time and skills to bring the vision to life. Drawing inspiration from a spoken-word graffiti video I made awhile back, we partnered with student rapper Edgeri Hudlin and graffiti artist WOEM to create a hybrid "graffiti-meets-rap-meets-spoken-word" video at the bridge underpass near East Campus. Street art, poetry, and documentary are well-suited instigators of real and authentic conversation, so why not mix them up? As you would imagine, the process has been a crazy cool combination of personalities, colors, and connections. I can't wait to share the complete video later this week. Very curious to see what kind of impact it makes!

The Timeline August 29: First meeting with organizers August 31: Team agrees to pursue graffiti-poetry idea Sept 1: Edgeri and WOEM join the team Sept 2-7: Edgeri writes rap/poem; statistics are collected to inform his writing Sept 8: Brainstorm visuals Sept 11: Record rap/poem with Edgeri; finalize visuals; contact student volunteers Sept 12: Production Day 1 Sept 13: Production Day 2 Sept 14-19: Edit video and invite feedback Sept 20: Presentation at voting rights conference

Behind the Scenes

A Study in Space

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https://vimeo.com/138441789

"The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light." (Matthew 6:22)

Once upon a time I declared, "Creativity and spontaneity need space to work their magic!" How easy to say when it's summer, right? Well now that I'm back at school, I must reiterate: ESPECIALLY at school, where we're saturated with rich and challenging experiences, it is absolutely vital for us to protect creative space for spontaneity and reflection. Otherwise, we may miss out on opportunities to go deeper into our own stories. As someone who is really J according to Myers-Briggs, I love to plan, organize, make lists, and be prepared for whatever comes my way. However, over time I have come to relish organic opportunities to grow because they reliably reveal something new (and often profound) about myself and my relationship to those around me.

Last week, I was invited to share my story with several first-years enrolled in the introductory neuroscience course at Duke. Informed by an excellent article by Errol Morris for my film capstone class, I likened the brain to the filmmaker: Both strive to make sense of reality and to construct a meaningful narrative based on experiences. However, to tell a story well, you need SPACE TO REFLECT - because the brain has limited attentional resources and an impressionable memory - and SPACE TO TAKE RISKS AND FAIL - because conflict develops character, and that's central to any good story.

 Whiteboard
In other news, I finally finished unpacking my room this weekend. My favorite part? The whiteboard I've reserved as a creative space in my room.

This weekend, my friend Stephanie and I discovered the joy of SHARED SPACE to reflect and take risks spontaneously. We've wanted to collaborate on a dance video for awhile now, so last week we reserved time on Friday to practice in the Duke Gardens since I have minimal experience with dance. At the last minute, capricious weather decided to rain on our parade in favor of a study party... but alas / hallelujah, the study party was not to be! Books closed and laptops open, we soon found ourselves excitedly sharing our art with each other.

Amidst this organic exchange of hopes, fears, fledgling projects, and feedback, "You Don't Miss A Thing" entered the conversation, a beautiful worship song by Bethel Music that has given me much hope this past week. Steph and I are both part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and before the first verse even concluded, Steph had an OH! moment of - "I can dance to this! Like you and storytelling, I want to explore dance as worship!" - and up she sprung, graceful limbs painting the lyrics through the air. There aren't words to describe how amazing it was to see this song, of all songs, shape the space for our collaboration. Between doubts and loneliness in my relationships, and fears about my laptop crashing, I've needed so much grace this week. The song grounds me in the truth that I am seen even when I feel like no one sees or loves me, and when I don't even know how to love myself. The words mean so much to me because I've experienced healing through them. Again, I am reminded that great pain is necessary to fully grasp truth - and to bring it to life through great art.

As Steph twirled and tuned her creative pulse to this musical heartbeat, I teased the light and the space. A key light here...a fill there... It was an exhilarating exercise to try and make much out of little, all the while marveling at how God does it all the time. I had an idea to project the blue mountainous background of the lyric video as a light source, and wow the result was dramatic, moody, and definitely more beautiful than I expected. The light rays of the projector itself were a delightful surprise, wrapping Steph in rippling light, visually drawing us in to a sacred space of worship. Caught up in the spirit of creative collaboration, we danced - Steph with her body, me with my camera. She improvised, and I extemporized. She acted, and I reacted. Together, we pooled our creative visions and expressions as worship. What was supposed to be a practice in the gardens, and then a study session...unexpectedly became a window into the posture of wonder we feel dancing through life with God.

Given the impromptu nature of the footage I gathered, I was initially unsure about what story I could communicate. Yet as I reviewed the footage, I found myself re-experiencing the beauty of being wondrously lost in the Lord, and I knew I wanted to invite others into our creative communion. This vision guided all of my editing decisions in Premiere Pro as I integrated visual moments with lyrical meaning. While I really enjoy color grading, minimal adjustments went into this video because I wanted to honor the nostalgic elegance characteristic of Steph's visual brand.

What have I learned about myself and my creative process? When I create space and open myself to learning about and supporting other artists, inspiration organically follows. With a desire to grow our creativity together (TEAM ART), we can make a lot out of very little. What wonderful exercise for the eyes of our souls!

Eruditio et Religio

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Confession: I love my classes! Every single one of them. Granted, I'm probably wearing rose-tinted glasses since I'm only two weeks in to senior year...but altogether they are helping me develop a vocabulary for my artistic vision, compass, and trajectory. I'm learning how to tell the story that I am living, and it feels really good. This post is dedicated to why I value each class and the driving questions they're helping me answer.


AMI 499S: Capstone, Arts of the Moving Image Certificate
A space to discern the story I want to tell, to practice, and to share my own story. Already, I have gained some clarity about my values (e.g. being real, team art) through our Show & Tell exercise: share 30 minutes of original or inspiring media. I also can't get enough of our first reading assignment (this and this by Errol Morris), which likens the filmmaker to the brain, as both integrate different views into a meaningful narrative. What's more, our weekly homework assignment is to BLOG our creative process and thoughts. Perfect, right? I'm very thankful for this unexpected source of accountability to keep writing and reflecting. Look out for those posts under #capstone!


AMI 336S: Documentary & Policy
What defines influential documentary? How do films successfully effect real-world change (policy, attitudes, and actions)? What can I learn and apply to my own decisions as a filmmaker who wants to share impactful stories? I'll be looking for answers to these questions as we watch documentaries on a wide range of topics: national identity, activism, racism, mental health, capital punishment, government accountability...yup, I can't wait!


MMS 272: Marketing Across Borders, Cultures, and Demographics (though it should actually be Psychographics)
How do I identify and deeply understand my audience (the consumer)? How do I do communications research? What makes effective brand strategy, and how do I want to brand myself? I think our projects and discussion are mostly contextualized to product brand management, but the principles definitely apply to anything I want to communicate.


EDUC 363: Educational Leadership
How does education develop leaders? What kind of leaders does education need? What kind of leader am I? Where can/should I lead? I really love the readings we've discussed so far, and I feel myself applying the principles and ethics I've read about to my leadership roles on campus, as well as my college education. Of the three purposes of education I read about recently, I reckon I approach my education from a democratic equality perspective because I'm interested in classes and experiences that shape me into a conscious citizen who thinks critically and creatively (the purported aim of liberal arts, anyway).


MUSIC 218: Musical Theater Performance
So I actually dropped the class after the first week because of schedule constraints, but as someone who's physically uncoordinated and theatrically untrained, I loved the push to know my body - not to fear or be ashamed of it, but to be in touch with it and learn to control what I communicate with my voice and body language. Hopefully another opportunity like this will open up in the future!


And that's my academic lineup for this semester! Feeling quite in line with Duke's motto, Knowledge and Religion. My goal is to faithfully discern the stories I want to tell beyond Duke professionally, and I think my classes will support my discovery. I've definitely grown the most outside of my classes in general, so it's refreshing to be this excited and expectant for the classroom!


Photo taken at the Mr. Brainwash Pop-Up Gallery in NYC.