Monday, June 28, 2010
Over three months of painstaking work later, and the sitcom that was once no more than a hatch-brained joke has turned into a reality. The end result was way better than any of us could have expected, but it's not to say that there weren't doubts as to whether or not it would ever make it out of post-production. With bad weather and hectic end-of-semester schedules foiling the movie-making process at every turn, we only finished shooting the raw footage of the film with four days left to spare until we would all be skipping town. Even then, more corners were cut when we realized that we missed a couple of key shots and had to pick them up, out of chronology, and at times with months in age added to our main actors. Both Dave and Anne were planning to leave Taigu a little earlier due to extenuating circumstances, so most of the group was content to let the sitcom sit in Gerald's hands for the summer and watch it whenever it was finally completed online. That predisposed, of course, that we wouldn't be able to watch it together as a group, which was kind of the entire reason for wanting to make the sitcom in the first place. The sitcom (antithetical to me posting it online) was for us—to celebrate how far we had come in a year of living together and to commemorate the incredible amount of free time we will surely never have again—and that was reason enough to act quickly.
Gerald was the first to recognize this, and with an incredibly limited window of time to do all of the editing, it was then that we put him under house arrest. To be fair, it was largely at his own request, but for four straight days he was left with only the bare essentials: water, ramen noodles, periodic check-ins for dizzy spells, and a 3-sleeve variety pack of Oreos. He had two laptop cooling pads running around the clock, and still his computer had sporadic breakdowns due to heat exhaustion, leaving segments of unsaved work swallowed up by the ether. We left his girlfriend Ida in charge of attending to his other responsibilities—tabulating the final grades for his classes, taking him leftovers from meals, and making sure he retained consciousness long enough to finish editing—while the rest of us, begrudgingly, went about our normal routines stricken by his absence, but knowing full well that he had committed himself to a worthwhile cause.
On the forth day, G[eral]d created “It's Not Jackie Chan.” Hours upon hours of raw footage were consolidated into a shiny 22-minute final product—a real life sitcom, and the first in Taigu's history. In the intervening days, Anne and I secured a classroom with a projector to be able to show it on a big screen in all of its HD glory. Our friendship with our Chinese friend Bobby gave us top billing rights to use his classroom, normally reserved for organizational meetings of the Rubik's Cube club, for which Bobby is the president (in previous months, we were invited to attend a “party” for the club that had us facetiously compete in games of skill and had remarkably little to do with Rubik's cubes). On opening day, we dressed to the nines and rolled out the red carpet in anticipation of our theatrical debut—what was to be the show's world premiere. Save for Gerald, none of had seen the finished project—only bits and pieces gleamed from watching him edit in various capacities over the last four days.
Gerald introduced the sitcom and each actor to a room full of applause.
Our guest list wasn't particularly long, but friends from all over came out to see it. Like the heartwarming season finale to a long-running show, so too was how my first year in Taigu came to a close. I was overcome with how many of my students took the time to come out for the premiere, skipping out on other obligations just to show their support. At the end of the night, the entire room was booked solid—there was not an empty seat to be found and we had rows of people crowding around in the back to watch. The reaction to the sitcom was largely good, though many of my non-English majors (not surprisingly) had a fair bit of difficulty understanding all of the dialogue. Many simply nodded and smiled: “funny” they said, before graciously heading to the exits. At the end of the day, the sitcom (despite all of our time and energy spent) was really just a warm-up for Gerald's next project: a feature-length film to be shot in Taigu next year. It was a way to work out all the kinks with his camera and practice the entire movie-making process from start to finish. In retrospect, there's a lot that we could have done differently, but I'm still really proud to have my name slapped across the opening credits. Special thanks go to all of the actors involved, because this wouldn't have been possible without all the work they contributed to the project.
And now without further ado: “It's Not Jackie Chan!”