Category Archives: Blog

Breathin’ Updates December 2013

(Photo taken from The New Parkway work-in-progress screening)

(Photo taken from The New Parkway work-in-progress screening)

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones! We wanted to share a brief update on the progress of Breathin’: the Eddy Zheng Story with all of you. 2013 has been a busy year — we held a work-in-progress screening of the documentary, filmed the birth of Eddy’s first child Abella, and continued to EDIT, EDIT, EDIT.

All the hard work has led to major progress with the film and we now have a 1 hour, 45 minute rough cut. Over the past two years, we’ve made great strides in developing the story and are committed to sharing a side of Eddy’s life that has not yet been told. The visual elements have also developed further, as we’ve tapped into archival news footage and even received original artwork from Hyung-Rae Tarselli, a prisoner who illustrates images of solitary confinement from his cell in SCI Greene prison. In June, we screened a 26-minute work-in-progress draft of the documentary. This free public screening was held at The New Parkway Theater in Oakland to a packed crowd of 145 people, who gave us invaluable feedback and enthusiasm.

We look forward to refining our film into a final cut through 2014. Thank you for supporting this project from the very beginning. The new year promises to be a fruitful one!

Sincerely,
Ben Wang, Director
Christine Kwon, Producer

BREATHIN’ baby

With Lisa’s due date less than two weeks away, I have been “on-call” to film the big day. The plan is to film the first moments after delivery, when Eddy and Lisa hold their new child for the first time. BREATHIN’ is about transformation, so Eddy’s transformation into becoming a father will be an important part of this story.

971737_10151725070769754_1386521235_nAs a filmmaker, how do you prepare for a film shoot like this? Normally, we schedule and plan for a film shoot weeks in advance, with plenty of time to assemble a crew and prep. This time, I will most likely be filming solo. Since I could get the call at any moment, I have been putting together a “Go Bag” in order to take off quickly. So far, I have all my basic camera and audio equipment, battery chargers, phone chargers, water bottle, snacks, and directions to the hospital. Do I feel prepared? NO. In any case, I will be “going with the flow,” as Eddy often says.

Photos from Breathin’ work-in-progress screening

On June 25th, we held a work-in-progress screening of Breathin’: the Eddy Zheng Story at The New Parkway Theater in Oakland. Thank you to everyone who helped us pack the house! It was the first time that we showed this 25-minute work-in-progress to the public (and to Eddy), so it was a very exciting night for all of us. It is always a bit awkward to show something at a relatively early stage–we are still finishing up filming, still editing, still working towards a full rough cut…but we wanted a chance to show our supporters and community the progress that we have made and to get feedback about the direction of the film. As expected, the Q&A discussion at the end was lively and constructive. Now, onward to the full rough cut! Here are a few photos of the night, captured by Director of Photography, R.J. Lozada! A few more photos on our Facebook page, too.

Producer Christine Kwon puts up the sign at the front entrance

The New Parkway Theater in Oakland, CA

Packed house!

Eddy and Lisa anxiously awaiting their first sneak peek of the work-in-progress cut!

Breathin’!

Lively Q&A discussion after the screening, with Executive Producer Deann Borshay Liem, Eddy Zheng, and Director Ben Wang

Eddy speaking to the crowd

Ruth Nakashima, Ben’s Grandmother, gives away the prized Tomatoes!

 

 

 

Breathin’ Party – Friday September 14th at 330 Ritch!

Come party with us at 330 Ritch on Friday September 14th and help raise funds for BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY, the first ever documentary to highlight Eddy Zheng’s 21 years behind bars and the impact of incarceration and deportation on the Asian American community. Currently finishing up principal photography, we have been fortunate to receive a matching grant up to $10,000 from the East Bay Fund for Artists! These funds will enable us to launch post-production this Fall! This includes editing, sound design, music composition and rights, color grading and tape-mastering; as well as festival submission fees and marketing costs.

After serving over 20 years behind bars for a robbery he committed at age 16, Eddy Zheng has dedicated his life to preventing youth violence, and now faces deportation to China. Contrary to notions of a “model minority,” the Asian and Pacific Islander American prison population grew 250% between 1990 and 2000. Providing a complex portrayal of its subject, BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY will highlight a critical human rights issue facing the U.S. today: the alarming increase of Asian immigrants and refugees being incarcerated and deported.

All ticket sales and donations will be matched 100% by the East Bay Fund for Artists at this event!

Breathin’ Fundraiser Party – Friday September 14th, 9PM – 2AM 

330 Ritch (360 Ritch St., SF)

COME EARLY to see Bandung 55 at 10PM, and stay for DJs King Most and Chickenscratch!

DOORS OPEN AT 9PM / $20 AT THE DOOR / $15 PRESALE @ http://eddyzhengstory.eventbrite.com/

Visit the FB event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/492720307406023/

Film website: www.eddyzhengstory.com

We believe sharing Eddy’s story will help raise awareness about issues of criminalization, restorative justice, and deportation; and we hope you will join us in making this feature length film a reality. You can support this film simply by partying to Bandung 55, featuring KIWI ILLAFONTE, and dancing the night through to some of the Bay’s hottest DJs. Hope to see you out on the dance floor.

Breathin’ dailies: Eddy shares a love story

Director Ben Wang and Producer Christine Kwon on the other side of the stacks of boxes of letters, awards, and other memories from Eddy’s incarceration.

“Words?! Yes, I will leave some behind only if they take as little space as the ashes of that half of my body that will be burnt, and as little time to read as the duration needed to bury the other half.”

Distracted, Jalal Toufic.

One hardly thinks about the paper, the documents, that follow us in our lives: our birth certificate, Social Security card, report cards. Documents that are like breathing, like an involuntary action, essential identifiers to confirm our existence.

Then there’s the material that shapes us, fills out our smiles, shapes the timber in our laughter: love letters that we store in shoeboxes, the old planners with dates circled, scribbled out, the phone number you eventually remember…forget…remember.

It was only in today’s shoot (08/04/2012) with Eddy that I began to revisit my own fascination and connection to documents.

Throughout this production, I’ve been amazed by Eddy’s universe, yet held myself at some distance for the purposes of focusing on facilitating the elements of Eddy’s narrative to the screen. We’ve traveled to the different spaces that Eddy moves about, within, through: offices, small community spaces, parks in springtime afternoons, the streets. My task is to bring dimension and organization to these movements. I weave him in, I cut him out, I make him larger, I pin him against the frame, or push the triangles that he is against the frame of a circle. My mind, my eyes, my hands move the camera to abstract and preserve all at once.

One space that Eddy is woven into, is the home that he shares his family with in Oakland. In an unintentional way, the dimensions of his bedroom mirrors a prison cell, the doors are french doors. A couple feet away, a hallway closet. Within it, are the years and years and years of letters, years and years of court transcripts, probation reports, psychological evaluations held in large boxes that would typically fit home appliances.

Eddy moving more bins of letters.

Eddy stacked the half dozen boxes and bins and we spent four hours sifting though Eddy’s memories. Eddy said that these letters were his lifeline while he was incarcerated. They affirmed his strength, vulnerability, his worth to the world . Traits that prisons are designed to wrench from these men over time, and often succeed with devastating effect. Accumulated years, volumes and volumes of unrequited love, hidden resentment. The stuff that we live with in daily interactions that we post about, that we text about in milliseconds, and forget just as quickly… these are that, but ossified as long as they’re kept away from extreme temperatures, moisture, and light. We only made it through the letters, we never made it to the court transcripts, the stuff that illustrates how Eddy was [mis]handled in a court of law.

Four hours of witnessing Eddy’s neurons firing from these letters only made my neurons fire like crazy, and I found it physically difficult to connect as I became distracted with my own letters that are out there, that have been written. My own strength, vulnerability, love.

Having our producer, Christine Kwon, on location was helpful. Not just because she was available to hold the boom, or take production stills, but also because she is a woman. Eddy is a red-blooded heterosexual male, with an incredibly faithful body, and an equally adept charisma. All to say, Eddy opens up to Ben and myself, but differently with Christine. Eddy throws us a curve at the end of the four hour shoot by sharing just how he was able to win the affections of a young woman who volunteered at the chapel in San Quentin.

 

Note: The film will NOT be in black-and-white, this was just a choice R.J. made for this clip.

We think and imagine what love and desire could be for a man in prison, but oddly enough it’s similar to all of our experiences in grade school, and even in our adult lives. The way that Eddy emboldens himself as he retells in the video above, is the same bravery you’ve had at some point. Whether in love, or in a profession, or in indignation, there’s a modicum of imagination, creativity in the act of being seen.

It’s basic human nature, the need to be seen, equal to that, of breathin’.

R.J. Lozada, Director of Photography, can be heard often on APEX Express on KPFA. You can view more of his short videos on his Vimeo website, or his other medium of storytelling, photography.

DOING LIFE

Ten years ago, filmmaker Anne Rogers began a film called DOING LIFE, a documentary that profiled prisoners serving life sentences with a possibility of parole and examining California’s parole system at a time when very few lifers were getting out. She interviewed lifers and their families, filmed parole board hearings, and visited immigration detention jail. One of the lifers that she followed was Eddy Zheng. Unfortunately, DOING LIFE was not finished due to a lack of funding. I was able to contact Anne this year and share with her my current project on Eddy. She very generously offered to share her footage with me; the only issue was that they had been holed up somewhere in a storage shed for years and their whereabouts were uncertain. This past Sunday, I went to the storage shed with her to search for the mini-DV and DVCAM tapes. The shed was packed to the ceiling, but after a few hours of hauling boxes, bikes, sleds, dressers, tables, and chairs out, we found the tapes! The footage is priceless—including Eddy’s college graduation at San Quentin and his parole board hearings—and will add a crucial component to the documentary. After packing the storage shed back up, we had lunch and talked about why we both wanted to make these films—we have both been deeply inspired by lifers who we have met and wanted to provide an alternative story to the dehumanizing messages about prisoners and lifers that are often in the media. Thank you Anne for your generosity and dedication!  – Ben Wang

Finding the tapes!

Eddy at 30 years old

 

 

Breathin' Production Still: Eddy interviews his mom.

What does a DP do while recording an interview? Shoot production stills. Naturally.

Photo by R.J. Lozada (Director of Photography), Christine Kwon (Producer holding the boom), Ben Wang (Director, kneeling), and Karolyn Wong (Production Assistant, translating). Eddy interviews his mother on her birthday. More to come.

(Oakland, 2011)

2011 Year End Update

We are currently in the midst of production for BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY, with about 60 hours of footage filmed to date. Some of my personal highlights were filming Eddy’s efforts to open a community center in San Francisco’s Bayview District, the birthday celebrations of both of Eddy’s parents, presentations at high schools and colleges, reunions with formerly incarcerated friends, and a national reentry conference in Los Angeles. Huge thanks to our dedicated team, especially Christine Kwon (Producer), R.J. Lozada (Director of Photography), Deann Borshay Liem (Executive Producer), Geraldine Ah-Sue (Associate Producer), Momo Chang (Writer), and Production Assistants Sean Totanes, Karolyn Wong, Manh Hakchareun, Aaron Nakai, and Alun Lee! We look forward to finishing up production on the documentary in Spring 2012, with post-production to follow. Stay tuned…

We are extremely grateful to all of our generous supporters who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign and donated towards the project through other avenues! Be on the lookout for our revamped website in early 2012 for more updates and don’t forget to like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/pages/Eddy-Zheng-Story/251322981559649

Happy New Year!

– Ben Wang, Director/Producer

WE MADE IT!

Thanks to everyone for a tremendous show of support. With your generosity, we surpassed our Kickstarter goal and can now go into production!

This is a truly community driven project, and we hope to hear more from you over the process of making this film.

Please continue to spread the word about the film and share the trailer: