Asian Pacific American Labor Studies
Asian American Studies 197B; class ticket number: 121-856-200
Mondays, 4:00 – 6:50 p.m.
Bunche 2168


Asian American Studies 197B
Spring Quarter 2002

Final Community Internship Reports
Visual Communications Labor Documentary Video Project by T.J. Lee and Aimee Pham

This quarter we chose to intern at Visual Communications, a non-profit media arts organization, in order to work on the development of a documentary concerning the people involved with Asian Pacific American Labor in Southern California. Since we participated in the class last quarter, both of us were knowledgeable on the subject of labor, specifically the Assi Market Workers’ Campaign and the history of the Thai-Latino Garment Workers Campaign for Retailer Accountability. This was perfect since the current Market Workers’ Campaign is going to be included in the film and the history of the Campaign for Retailer Accountability had already set some sort of precedence for the current Forever 21 Boycott against the exploitation of garment workers, which is also going to be included in the film.

Upon our acceptance to participate in this internship at Visual Communications, we agreed to assist the lead filmmaker and VC in any way needed with the labor documentary. We scheduled weekly meetings at VC in order to get updates and keep up with one another and then spent another three hours there every Friday in order to complete the work we needed to do in the office. During our weekly meetings with Robert and Leslie we would always set aside a time where we could think of titles for the work and brainstorm about any other things needed. We were also able to watch a few previously made documentaries concerning Asian Americans and labor. By watching what has already been made about similar subjects, we were able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of previously created documentaries, as well as prevent the repetition of the same points.

One of our main projects was to create a method to communicate project developments. After meeting with Leslie Ito, the project coordinator, and the web team at VC, it was decided that the communication channels would be a website and some kind of e-newsletter. Our first task was to write text for the website and we decided that it would be best to split the newsletter into portions where there would be updates on the actions of each of the community players involved, including: the lead filmmaker, Visual Communications, the artists, the community, the workers, the students, the scholars and the Rockefeller foundation which is providing the funding for the project. In addition, we brainstormed ideas for things that should be included on the website that would keep visitors interested in the topic. It was agreed that the site should constantly be changing to reflect the dynamic nature of the project. It would include links onto other useful sites where a person could go if they had a deeper interest in specific related topics. It would contain other things like a guestbook where stories could be shared, a section on how one could become more involved (a curriculum guide maybe), and a portion with the works of community scholars on the issue.

We also had separate tasks that we did on our own time. Aimee researched the VC archives for still images of labor that could be included in the documentary or used for a visual timeline on the website. She is also researching the Asian American Studies reading room at UCLA for resources on labor. TJ was also able to go through the VC archives, but he focused on the oral histories that are recorded there. By going through previously documented information, he was able to assess the information that is already available for the website and even perhaps the documentary. In addition, he is currently working on creating an informal indexing system so that future researchers can find the information more efficiently. It was also exciting for TJ to go along with Robert on one of the interview shoots. He was able to see first-hand the documentary making process and whet his appetite for future opportunities. Also, with the help of his roommate, TJ is working on translating that interview from Korean to English.

Since the project is progressing slower than anticipated, both of us are staying here for the summer and are excited to remain a part of this project. We want to accompany Robert on his shoots and attend public labor actions where we may be able to find information to contribute to the project. While even the completed documentary is not expected to be finished before May of next year, it is exciting to know that we were able to participate in the creation of a significant project to contribute to the growing bank of APA knowledge already out there — and it was fun at the same time.







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