Los Angeles, CA, September 26, 2011—Ming Lai, producer/writer/director of Humanist Films, recently completed "Art Recession," his feature-length documentary on the importance of art education.
Despite its huge impact, art education is often one of the first programs to be cut, especially when the economy is hard hit. "Art Recession" explores the importance of art education, showing how it teaches us to communicate, develops our critical thinking skills, helps us to learn other subjects, expresses our individualism, enriches our culture, builds our society, and ultimately conveys our humanity. This documentary then offers powerful ways to save it.
The documentary interviews the art world about this timely subject–from visionary artists and respected art curators to inspiring art teachers and knowledgable museum educators to involved parents and promising art students. These thought-provoking interviews include Gary Baseman, Gary Blackwell, Michelle Borok, Denise Gray, Jason Holley, Brooke Kent, Monica Magana, Rachel Matos, Karol Heinecken Mora, Eric Nakamura, Paige Oden, Ming Ong, Ralph Opacic, Aaron Smith, Brian Stoebe, Courtney Stoebe, Tiffany Stoebe, Edwin Ushiro, Tianyi Wang, and P. Williams.
When art education is cut, aspiring artists don't receive the important training that they need to succeed. Students who don't necessarily want to become artists aren't exposed to the power of art to enhance their own chosen fields of study. Even pre-school students, who can't really talk yet, are deprived of a powerful language to express themselves.
To save art education, it's not as simple as writing your congressman. There must be a fundamental shift in thinking. Art must be valued as highly as reading, writing, and math, if not more. Then more money will be devoted to it. Ultimately, the responsibility to preserve and protect it rests not on just political leaders, art educators, or parents but ourselves as its ultimate benefactors.
Lai and respected artist/art educator/actress, Rachel Matos, conducted the interviews. For some of the interviews, he tried an interesting approach, asking the artists, who were often friends and colleagues, to interview each other. The intention of these peer interviews was to elicit more relaxed and insightful responses.
Lai was inspired to make this documentary by The Mini Show, a group art exhibition to raise money for the Mini Lai Scholarship Fund, which is managed by the respected California Community Foundation and benefits Art Center College of Design illustration students: minilai.com
Lai's younger sister, Mini Lai, was a passionate artist and proud alumna of Art Center College of Design's Illustration Department. After she passed away from congenital heart disease which required her to receive a heart transplant, her family and friends created the Mini Lai Scholarship Fund to honor her memory.
Lai states, "The Mini Show was a huge success thanks to the generosity of many individuals, organizations, and corporations. We produced 'Art Recession' as a way to reach more people about the importance of art education."
Rising artists, Brian Damitz, Ming Ong, and Edwin Ushiro, who organized The Mini Show with Lai, were instrumental in producing the documentary, enlisting the help of many respected people in the art world.
To shoot the documentary, Lai teamed up with emerging director of photography, Nate Lipp. The two had first met when Lipp served as the 2nd A.C./D.I.T on Lai's award-winning short film, "Journey of a Paper Son." Lai comments, "Nate was passionate about making the documentary cinematic and powerful, bringing his in-depth technical knowledge, dedicated work ethic, and stylish vision to the project."
Working with a minimal but efficient crew, Lai and Lipp were assisted by hardworking grip/boom operators, Richard Mayerik, John J. Oligny, William Waters, and Sunny Wong as well as production manager, Angelina Cheng, and still photographer, Sari Makki. Lai says, "Our documentary wouldn't have been possible without our small, but powerful crew."
Lipp shot the documentary with a groundbreaking Canon 7D HDSLR. He owns and operates his own 7D so he was able to exploit the strengths of this powerful camera—striking images, shallow depth of field, excellent low-light capability, and discrete profile.
As part of his camera package, Lipp has a full complement of Canon lenses. To maintain a low profile, he eschewed the use of many typical accessories (camera rig, matte box, follow focus, external monitor, etc.). For camera support, he used a trusty Sachtler DV-8 tripod. Sound was recorded to an external Tascam DR-100 handheld recorder.
Rising director of photography/editor, Matt Steinauer, served as the editor and colorist. Steinauer recently shot and edited Lai's award-winning short film, "Journey of a Paper Son," as well as his latest commercial for international probiotic drink, Yakult. Lai explains, "As a skilled editor, Steinauer was able to synthesize the different viewpoints of many individuals in the art world into one powerful voice, conveying the importance of art education." Like Lipp, Steinauer is highly versed on the latest technology so he was able to ensure that this relatively new HDSLR workflow went smoothly. He edited the documentary with Final Cut Pro on an Apple Mac Pro.
The powerful music was created by up-and-coming composer, Timo Chen. He was assisted by Sundance Composer Lab Fellow, Chanda Dancy, as well as talented musician, Steve Pranoto. Lai states, "Timo and his team took the documentary to a new level with his experimental, haunting, and profound score. I was deeply impressed by his talent and dedication. He literally took apart his piano to create wonderful new music for the film, including inventive ideas like playing it with an e-bow (an electronic bow). His cutting-edge music honored the ground-breaking work of the artists featured in the film."
Veteran sound supervisor/sound designer/sound effects editor/music editor, Jeffrey Hutchins, who's best known for his work on "SpongeBob SquarePants," headed the all-star sound department. Lai comments, "Jeff has been a huge supporter of my work, and I'm indebted to his kindness and expertise. With his poweful sound design, he brought the documentary to life."
Veteran foley artist, Edward Steidele, who started his career as the foley assistant on "Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back," lent his expertise to the project. Equally-talented foley mixer, Darrin Mann, who worked on the Oscar-winning "No Country for Old Men" and "Crash," mixed the foley session. Lai says "Working with Ed and Darrin during the foley session was like watching magic being performed. With the arcane art of foley, they assisted Jeff in giving life to the film."
Veteran re-recording mixer, Gordon Hookailo of GDH Digital, who's worked with music legends David Bowie, James Brown, and Stevie Wonder, mixed the sound in his THX-tuned suite. Lai explains, "With more than 30 years of experience working in the film and music industries, Gordon brought a wealth of knowledge to the project."
A fine editor and director in his own right, Mike Wolf of Wild Pictures, created the beautiful end credits. Lai states, "Mike helped honor the generosity of all our interviewees and supporters and the hard work of all our crew with his clean, simple, and timeless end credits."
To promote this documentary about art education, Lai wanted to create a movie poster that wasn't photography based like most posters but art based to reflect the creative subject matter and interviewees. Producers Brian Damitz and Ming Ong, who are also accomplished artists and graphic designers, worked with rising artist, Sean Chao, who created a custom sculpture for the key art, using his signature style. "Sean creates these amazing miniature sculptures—microcosms of the world that are filled with humor and, in our case, sadness." comments Lai. "It was such an honor to have him create this incredible sculpture for our film as well as participate in our inaugural The Mini Show."
Respected graphic designer, Sven Igawa of Igawa Design, created the elegant and understated website for the documentary (artrecession.com) and Lai's production company (humanistfilms.com). A specialist in typography, he also advised on the fonts for all the credits and titles in the film. With a deep love of design, Lai says, "I deeply admire Sven's work. It's always intelligent, beautiful, and enduring."
Lai states, "It was an incredible experience working on The Mini Show and 'Art Recession.' Many corporations, organizations, and individuals offered their generous assistance with these projects to benefit students. My family and I feel deeply indebted to their kindness and generosity. Hopefully, through this documentary, we're able to convey the importance of art education and help save it."
ABOUT MING LAI AND HUMANIST FILMS, LLC
Humanist Films, LLC is an emerging film and commercial production company, based in Los Angeles, CA. Founded by producer/writer/director, Ming Lai, Humanist Films is less of a traditional production company than an innovative think tank, gathering the brightest minds to research, plan, create, and change.
To learn more about Humanist Films, please visit: