: Karen Lin
Spoken Word Poet:
Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai
Web site: www.zuzufilms.com
War & Peace Award sponsored by Netflix, Media That Matters Film Festival; Honorable Mention, Narrative Short, UrbanWorld Vibe Film Festival (NYC)
Official Film Festival Selections include:
Chicago Asian American International Film Festival; VC Filmfest 2007/Los Angeles Asian American Film Festival; Black Lily Film & Music Festival; H20 Hip Hop Odyssey Film Festival (NYC); Asian Cinevision/Asian American International Film Festival (NYC); Asian Film Festival (Dallas TX) 2007; San Diego Asian American Film Festival; Vancouver Asian Film Festival; CineDulce, NY Latino Film Festival; Harlem Stage Festival 2008
A convergence of the music video style of in-camera performance and the spoken word poetry of acclaimed Kelly Tsai, “Bystanding” captures the powerful words of this anti-war poem against a backdrop of charged New York City images.
What inspired you to make this piece?
“Bystanding” is a the collision of two worlds I know: my creative work as a writer/director and my experience as a music video producer. When I first saw Kelly Tsai live, her fierce performance inspired the idea to fuse the visual dynamics of the music video format with the explosive delivery style of spoken word poetry.
The idea posed two interesting challenges – it hadn’t been done before, and poetry wasn’t typically a performance or visually driven art form. As I began to really sit with the poem I knew pretty quickly that the video needed a big city backdrop. There are direct references to 9/11, but the majority of the poem actually takes place in the artist’s hometown of Chicago. Her experiences as captured in her poetry, though, are universal, and I wanted to convey that through the quintessential American urban landscape – the crowds, the people young and old, the buildings, and the bustling street life and energy that, for me, could only be New York City.
In planning for the shoot on the streets of New York City, I was particularly interested in capturing portraits of people, as inspired by the gorgeous photography in Mark Romanek’s “99 Problems” video for Jaz-Z. Real people, real life. And I knew finishing in black & white would give the piece a timelessness and classic finish, while addressing the limitations of the miniDV format in daylight exteriors.
Briefly tell us about how you made your film or video: what camera and format did you use to shoot your piece and what system did you use to edit it? What is your working process? Did you use any special techniques to make this work?
By-standing was shot on two Panasonic DVX-100A. It is mini DV and we used
Final Cut Pro to edit. From the start I knew I wanted to finish the short in
black and white. It would give he piece a timelessness and a classic finish
while also addressing the limitations of the mini DV format in daylight
exteriors. I collaborated with an amazing crew to make this film possible.
Do you have any interesting behind-the-scenes stories about the making of
this particular work?
2 days. 10 locations. No permits.
What is the relationship between your work as a video/filmmaker and life
in the NY Metro area?
The spoken word artist Kelly Tsai is a Brooklyn based poet. Though her poem
speaks on her experiences growing up in Chicago, the moment I heard the poem
I knew I wanted it to have big city feel and there is no other city like
NYC. For myself, I'm a freelance music video producer by day and I had been
working bi-coastally the last few years. It gave me a chance to live and
work in NYC and I absolutely fell in love with the city. It was a honor to
get a chance to make the film in NYC and hope to do more films there in the
For more info on the film and the makers:
Karen Lin, ZUZu Films, 1857 Midvale Avenue, #101, Los Angeles, CA 90025
2 East Broadway, 4th Fl.,
New York, NY 10038
For more info about Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai,