Ji Strangeway Director

First Person

I fought kinda hard for “Dino.” Although a minor character in NUNE, I felt it was important for me to have him in the film. This battle went through several rounds of negotiations between myself and people who were handling the scheduling of my productions.

Early on, a guy I hired on as a producer disagreed that I should move an entire production schedule around an “extra.” I voiced that I wanted to honor my commitment to actors. I think this decision made me look either crazy, suicidal or stupid, but in any event, the team was no longer with a producer.

There were several times where I have been asked to let go of extras for the sake of scheduling and how little time we had to film in a day. My production schedule was very aggressive and on our last production, everyone held a dark outlook that it was impossible to do. But I never believed them. And we did it.

I have saved the arms and legs of Ileana, who played the Nurse’s Aide in NUNE. I had been advised to get rid of her because the scene in the nurse’s office required too much set-up.

I disagreed of course, because as a writer, I knew that minor characters are like the salt and pepper of the movie—and without them, the film will have no flavor.

But I also kept her because I honored her commitment to the project.

I fought for her. And in fact, I fought for the Nurse as well because the blocking for that nurse’s office scene was very intense and time-consuming: there are five characters in that scene all choreographed to interact in and out the frame. To get all the scene filmed would take a day. But I refused to believe it. I pushed for less shots; more economic angels and more two-shots and three-shots; sacrificing images.

“Honor” is something that is important to me. Honor actually means “honesty” in my opinion. And people on set know that I get VERY UPSET when promises and concessions get dismissed, ignored or broken. There is nothing that bugs me more. I was almost ready to fire the AD when he didn’t honor agreements I had made prior to the filming, and I should have.

We’ve just recently updated our new web site and while reading Dino (Adrian Gomez’s) bio, I realized that my personal reasons for moving the world around to fit his work schedule may have been a bit crazy…but I also realized that — unwittingly — I committed to fulfilling a promise that was written in his personal bio. In the bio, his high school teacher told him not to let go of his dreams. Although I assume no responsibility for the young guy’s life, and although I’m no big time producer or hotshot, I feel that life is filled with little rocks in a river that nudges you in its gentle ways: these nudges can lead you down a crooked path or toward the narrow way. And although keeping one’s word means very little in this world: it means a lot to me in the end if I helped push someone in the right direction—even if it is just minor.

Of all the bios on the website, we had decided to keep Dino’s written in first person because it was so candid and uplifting, at least to me. The sweet innocence of his voice reminded me of my past, when I wrote a college essay to a liberal arts college:

Many years later, I was in the basement of my parent’s house and I came across my essay. I had spoken very candidly about how my parents came to America with four kids from Vietnam after escaping the war and living as refuges. How we lived in the housing projects and my father and mother didn’t know English yet worked their way out of welfare, got all of us through college, made sacrifices. How my father worked for minimum wage as a window installer while my mother saved all the money he gave her to get a loan to start a business. She opened up one of the very first Vietnamese grocery stores in Denver, CO. I wrote all that in my essay. And although I came from the ghetto and had very bad English, one of the most prestigious and competitive schools in America admitted me. And that education changed my life.

And while I attended my first year at Colorado College, I laid in bed in my dorm watching light cut through shadows on the wall. A sudden chill ran up my back. I had a weird realization that I had to make films although there was no film program at my school. It was a powerful feeling that shook and awakened me. Months afterward, I’d have archetypal powerful dreams that led me to change my major. I followed those nudges although they were impossible goals. I was frighten by the vision and kept saying to myself, “I am just a small girl. I have nothing. How can I achieve all this?”

When I read Adrian’s essay and he spoke about the strange feeling he got in his gut while he was on stage, I finally got it. I finally got him.

I’m no Colorado College, but I hope that NUNE takes him far.

Click here for Adrian’s Bio.

We Shall,
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I was never good at anything but telling the truth.

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