Welcome to 2018! I feel like all I've heard is how "horrible" 2017 was, and while a lot of bad things did happen in 2017, a lot of good happened as well. The global poverty rate is at an all-time-low, women (and men!) started a movement holding powerful men accountable for their horrible abuse, the teen pregnancy rate fell, women in Saudi Arabia were granted the right to drive, progress and breakthroughs were made in science and medicine--oh yeah, and that awesome solar eclipse!
Call me an optimist, but I think everyone did the best they could in 2017, and the only way to go from here in up. Okay, enough about other people, I'm going to be selfish and talk about me now:
2017 was crazy for me--it was, by far, the most unique year of my life (so far).
I started out the year quite literally in the center of Laos. I was there on an academic research trip and brought in the new year in the main square of Vientiane surrounded by Beerlao and Lao people dancing to "American Music" (aka Justin Beiber and Chainsmokers).
During my last semester, I co-ran a Greek Life Bible Study, continued to train in Martial Arts (TaeKwonDo mixed with Aikido) and worked on my independent study, pre-production for my documentary about Laos.
In April 2017, I received Her Campus School of Communication's Woman of the Year Award, which was nice. It was a peer-nominated award, so I guess it was nice to see that my friends didn't think I was completely a lost cause.
In May 2017, I was selected as one of 38 students in the country to receive a Pulitzer Center International Reporting Fellowship. I was thrilled, I love the Pulitzer Center. They're a news organization that covers the stories that no one else is talking about but are equally important (like my documentary about Laos). I am so grateful for this opportunity because it launched me into a world of journalism that I never previously saw myself in.
In May 2017, I graduated with a B.A. in Film & Media Arts and a minor in Marketing. About an hour after I walked across the stage and received my diploma, I hopped in a car with my parents and boyfriend and sped to Georgetown for my cousin's wedding. My brother and I were performing all the music for the ceremony, so I did a quick change, grabbed my guitar and held back tears as my beautiful cousin walked down the aisle to marry her love. A week later, we decided to have a "graduation party" for me which entailed a weekend at Virginia wineries. We rented an Airbnb and winery-hopped using a bus service. I got a tent as a graduation present and was so excited that I pitched it in the backyard of our Airbnb and slept in it the whole weekend! The last semester of college was the most difficult for me, but it was also where I learned and grew the most. This was a great way to celebrate the end of a chapter in my life.
In June 2017, I started freelancing for local production companies in the D.C. area, primarily with 522 Productions. This includes being a production assistant, camera assistant, and a field producer. I also prepped for my international co-production with my Laos team, MALAO Studios. With bi-weekly Skype calls, they scouted locations and characters and we planned out how to fill up 14 full production days. Over the summer, I attended events at the Pulitzer Center like the Gender Lens Conference where I learned so much from freelance journalists out in the field. I also started a Youtube channel over the summer in which I am "documenting the process of making a documentary". I also got to the next rank in my martial arts training, which was a big goal for me.
In September, I packed up, said goodbye to my friends and family and flew back to Laos. I stepped off the plane and was met with the thick, warm humidity that I missed so much. My crew and I packed into a truck, fit our gear in the back like a jigsaw puzzle and hit the road for Central Laos. We started in Thakhek, followed a female bomb-clearer of UXO Lao Khammouane, then spent a few days in villages documenting Lao people's experiences among the 80 million unexploded ordnance. It was an emotional experience for me. Being the only American on the crew was something I'm glad I did, but it was hard to be constantly reminded of this terrible thing my country did and having no one around who really understood. It was a good practice of working through tough subject matters and learning how to be empathetic with people's stories.
In October, I came home and immediately threw together a sizzle reel (or teaser) for the Pulitzer Washington Weekend Conference. All the fellows were coming together and we had to present the progress on our projects. Every single piece of interview footage we got was in Lao - and I wasn't expecting that. I thought we might get at least one interview in English, but we were in such a rural part of Laos, even the government officials barely spoke English. So I threw together a teaser that told the story through images in the meantime.
Currently, I'm working on securing funding to finish up post-production on This Little Land of Mines. My co-producers are working on transcribing all the footage and we will be editing on mirrored systems (so cool but such a pain to set up). The most expensive part of post-production will be the score composition. We have a very ambitious vision for the role the score will play and are very passionate about this idea.
I'm also currently working on developing and pitching video journalism/documentary series ideas. I have a couple in the works, but I love the general direction documentary journalism is going into. I have found that I am drawn to stories of people rising above their suffering--people who thrive despite horrible circumstances. These stories are inspiring and, I believe, can spread positivity and a greater understanding that we are all human.
So this is where I am at the beginning of 2018. Here are some goals I have for the New Year:
- Start a documentary anthology web-series
- Finish my documentary This Little Land of Mines
- Write more music
- Eat more greens
- Eat less meat
- Get to my next rank in martial arts (and maybe the next!)
- Travel to at least 2 countries
- Be more compassionate and empathetic
- Find full-time income
So, there it is. Keep me accountable. I hope you have a happy new year and live huge!