Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Video Shoot Is Hard Work

I had a great video shoot today with Clarissa Wei, now Senior Reporter for Goldthread, the digital arm of Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post focusing on Chinese food, culture and travel.  As you may know, Clarissa is the writer who discovered me and my Chinese restaurant spreadsheet back in 2012 when she was writing for L.A. Weekly, and wanted to do a video interview in her current position and introducing/updating what I've been up to for her new audience. 

The overall theme was evolution of Chinese food in California and the United States, so the first location was Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant in Monterey Park, whose early 1990s opening probably marked the apex in large Hong Kong style seafood and dim sum palaces in the United States.  At this venue we discussed Chinese food in America through the end of the 20th century when Cantonese was by far still the dominant type of Chinese food here, and indeed for the first century of its existence, the rural Toishanese version was the only exemplar of Chinese food in the United States.  Then with the change of the immigration laws in the late 1960s, immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan brought more modern and appetizing versions of Chinese food to our shores.   We also discussed how the San Gabriel Valley was shaped to be the future home of Chinese American communities and Chinese food by the previous years of housing discrimination against minorities, including Asian Americans, and that new residential construction in Monterey Park co-incident with the Civil Rights movement provided an escape from the previous housing segregation.  We finished this segment by going through some of the Chinese restaurant menus I had collected over the years.

Next it was off to San Gabriel for some street scenes along Valley Blvd. and in the San Gabriel Square shopping center.  I gave some information about this shopping center and the adjacent centers on the next two blocks.  They then had me walk from Kee Wah Bakery to the corner, then cross the street to the center adjacent to the San Gabriel Hilton, all through that shopping center, then back across the street.  The entire time a cameraman was walking with me either fronting me or behind me, or sometimes on the side.  I can imagine what the people out on the sidewalk and in the shopping center might be thinking.  We then did the same walking routine through the first level of San Gabriel square.  Lastly then they told me to stand in front of a fountain and smile, while facing the cameraman who was not still, but kept walking side to side and back.  Then they had me slowly move my head and look at the different buildings in the mall.

Last stop was Bistro Na's in Temple City.  They put us in a private dining room that held a table for 15 people.  Whereas Ocean Star represented old 20th century Cantonese food, Bistro Na's represents today's non-Cantonese regional Chinese food, often operated by Mainland China based restaurant chains.  Clarissa pulled up my Chinese restaurant list on her laptop and we discussed some of the entries.  We then went to talk about the flip of Chinese dining from Cantonese to Mainland food over the past decade or so.  The video shoot finished showing me driving out of the Camellia Square parking lot.  What wasn't shown was that I had to go downstairs to the underground garage where I had parked, and drive up to surface level so they could shoot the final scene.

All in all, it was 5 1/2 hours on location, which when adding travel time to and from the San Gabriel Valley was a good 7 hour day.  I have to say that it was more draining and tiring that I had anticipated, but clearly it was also an enjoyable day, and I'll be interested to see what the final product looks like after the two month post-production period.

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