Hi, my name is Wynton and I have a problem.

It’s hard to admit that there’s a problem. Saying that failure is important, vital, just a part of every day life is easy. Actually believing it is another thing-heart and mind aren’t as synchronous as we hope.

I have depression.

I’ve been avoiding it for such a long time that I was actually surprised when it stopped me from getting out of bed. When it sapped me of all energy, when it stole my motivation, blurred my focus, and made me question my existence.

I will not apologize for having depression, it only creates this circular thought train that solves nothing. Just like an allergy or any persistent illness, depression is a sickness and I have it, it is not something that I chose.

I will apologize for not dealing with it sooner, for not seeking help earlier, for thinking that I could deal with it alone. For the past three weeks it debilitated me-I couldn’t do the things that I loved doing-the mere thought of trying to write made me sweat and froze my heart. I couldn’t deal with the responsibilities that I chose to take because I care about them, because it made me think that I would fail immediately, that I would let down the people around me. I couldn’t speak to the people I love because I didn’t trust myself to be the person that they thought I was, because I wasn’t me. I was trying to be me but I couldn’t have been because there was this creature gripping my heart, reaching up and through my mind, its tentacles holding everything dead still as I desperately tried to live.

“Should” is now a word that I’m wary of, because I’ve realized how prevalent dissonance is. What is on the outside, what is spoken is often not what’s on the inside, the true motivating factor. Should I have gone to professionals earlier? Absolutely. Should I have told my loved ones how I’ve been feeling? Yes. Should I let this illness define me? Should I let it take away the things that I love? Restrict the things that I do? Be the first thing that I think about when I wake up? It’s easy to say no to all of these things-if you live in a utopia. But we don’t.

Mental illness is taboo. It is an easy excuse, made up, fantasy, weakness. Being Chinese, being American-mental illness is regarded as something that happened to others, and always with an eye roll attached. In a recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 42.5 million Americans (18.2% of the population) suffer from mental illness. Of those, 9.3 million are afflicted so seriously that it impedes with day-to-day activity. These numbers are probably lower than what is really out there since many people don’t get the help that they need. I didn’t.

The paranoia that paralyzed me as I realized that I may have a problem wasn’t born from the idea that there may not be a solution but from the thoughts of what others would think of me; my friends, family, professors, peers, employers. However, the stigma of mental illness doesn’t just hurt the individual suffering. It hurts those around us, it stresses prisons systems, fills the street with homeless, crowds hospitals. I highly recommend reading about the importance of dealing with mental illness, USA Today has a great multi-story feature.

I’m getting professional help and I’m more than ready (though a little nervous) to work towards becoming the person that I know that I can be. I am still the hard working, responsible, clever (?) person that I was before depression took over my life. I’m so thankful for the family and friends that I have, for the amazing support systems I didn’t realize I have (and that you probably have to.) I wouldn’t have had the strength to get the help that I need without my loved ones.

If you feel like you are drowning, suffocating, paralyzed, pinned down, whatever imagery that works with how you’re feeling, talk to someone. Consider speaking with a professional, you are worth it, your mind, your sanity is worth it.  If you are having any destructive thoughts please call this hotline (if you are in the US) 1-800-273-8255. Know that you aren’t alone, that I’m right beside you. That regardless of what your mind (or others (what jerks)) are saying about you, that you deserve love-not just to receive it, but to give it as well. To anyone that I know IRL, please know that I am here if you’d like to talk about anything that is bothering you, don’t be afraid-I’m the last person to judge.

Happy Thanksgiving. I know that I’m thankful of pretty much everything right now, especially all of my family and friends supporting me.

I love you.

P.S. It feels so good to write again. Try it, you’re probably better than I am 😉

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RIP Robin Williams

To say I owe a lot to Robin Williams would be a gross understatement. It would be a lie made through gritted teeth and teary eyes. It would a betrayal of who I am and who I will be because without what Robin Williams created and brought to the world I couldn’t possibly imagine who I would be.

No other human being has made me laugh, cry and understand the value of art and artists in the world more than Robin Williams. His standup is what I aspire to write and perform like. His performances have made me want to do it all just like he could, pulling every laugh and every emotion out of the audience. Between Good Will Hunting and The Fisher King, Williams made me empathize like very few can, those performances will stay with me forever. Not only because they are master classes in acting but because Williams could make you understand so clearly and beautifully. One of my dreams was to meet you, to get the opportunity to work with you, to just see if I could learn even more from you.

I’m trying desperately to not talk about myself-to focus on this amazing, genuine, wonderful, talented, giving human being. To shine one more light among the millions of others spotlighting the gifts that Robin Williams gave to all of us. To remind you how he is one of the feel people in the world to actually EGOT. To tell you to watch every Robin Williams movie and TV episode and stand-up special because you will never laugh and cry more. But that wouldn’t really compel me to write this post nor explain the tears and snot all over my face. Robin Williams was like a father to me. No fuck that, he was a father to me.

He taught me to be bold, to make all the weird voices and faces I could possibly fathom and to make those that I couldn’t. He taught me that a good laugh can be a powerful force, and that a single, genuine look can break and rebuild your heart. He taught me to never be afraid of silly, to always give 210% as soon as you commit to something. To love what you love apologetically. To not be afraid of trying different things, for accepting challenges. To never apologize for being yourself and if yourself is a little than even better.

Robin Williams, you are irreplaceable, the world has dimmed a bit without you here. I hope with all my heart that you can feel how much we all miss you. Rest in Peace, I will forever be indebted to you and will continue to love you with every fiber of my being.

Documentaries: A Chance to Explore the World, an Opportunity to Join a Community

This post was originally written for and posted on http://www.studentsoftheworld.org

“ There is nothing better for the soul than going to Full Frame” –Doug Block, Director of 112 Weddings, The Kids Grow Up, 51 Birch Street, and Home Page.

Nothing makes me feel more comfortable than the smell of cinema popcorn, the slightly squeaky seats and the gradual dimming of the lights before darkness cocoons you. Then you are transported.

In the beginning of April, I was lucky enough to represent Students of the World at the Full Frame Documentary Festival in my home state of North Carolina. I’ve lived in the Triangle area for the majority of my life and the transformation of Durham from a factory town into a metropolitan city has been awe inspiring. When I think about what makes Durham a cultural city Full Frame is one of the first things that pop into my mind.

I’d like to congratulate and thank the organizers and programmers of Full Frame on the excellent job they did this year (and every year.) I was transported to so many different places and lived the lives of so many amazing human beings, that at the end of each day I felt like I had spent hours traveling because that was how emotionally drained I was.

I watched twelve films over the course of about four days; each film opened a door, led me on a journey and introduced me to people that I may never have the chance to meet personally. From the amazing work done by Kit Gruelle as detailed in Cynthia Hill’s powerful Private Violence to the transformation of Mahoma Lopez from disgruntled worker to powerful activist in Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick’s inspirational The Hand That Feeds. Each film allowed me to explore and understand a perspective that I would never have been able to experience due to time, money and, most importantly, access.

That is what makes documentaries and Full Frame so amazing; they grant us access-into the lives of others and to the filmmakers’ processes and opinions. And that is brave. At almost every one of the screenings where filmmakers were present to introduce the films, each filmmaker took the time to thank and praise their subjects for their courage and strength to allow these cameras and people into their lives. To trust the filmmakers to craft a story that would be an effective reflection of something much larger.

It is brave of the filmmakers to be so transparent and open about their films and the process of making their films. By breaking the fourth wall that is normally set up in a cinema experience through Q&A sessions and simply being available to chat and discuss on site relationships are created that transcend the normal creator and consumer connection. I have never felt more comfortable among strangers because this medium, by necessity and the nature of it, is collaborative and community-driven.

All of these elements gel together to represent what makes documentaries and Full Frame experiences that should be enjoyed by everyone-community, collaboration and conversation. So I implore you, the millennial that aspires to travel around the world, to affect the lives of others, to tell the stories that are seldom told, my peer, to watch more documentaries, to connect with creators, and to head down to sunny Durham, North Carolina next April. I know I’ll be there with open arms and a smile on my face.

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7 Films from the Full Frame Film Festival that Students of the World students should watch and why.

This post was originally written for and posted on the Students of the World national site at http://www.studentsoftheworld.org

Full Frame as a film festival is amazing and I would highly recommend that everyone try to make the trip down to Durham every year. But I understand that many times life creates some obstacles that make that a difficult venture. However, you can get a taste of the festival experience by watching some of the films that premiered/screened there. Plus nothing makes you a better filmmaker than watching films. Here are my recommendations (in no particular order) for other SOW students.

Private Violence dir. Cynthia Hill
Awarded The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights at Full Frame this year, this intimate and powerful piece about domestic violence is a film that everyone should watch. Hill and her partner Rex Miller spent many months with some women as they deal with an issue that impacts millions of women both in the United States and around the world. Beginning by attempting to answer the question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” the film explores the many layers that complicate the issue of domestic violence and abuse in general. Private Violence is a fantastic example of the power of individual stories, the importance of trust and courage especially when telling difficult stories.

Captivated-The Trials of Pamela Smart dir. Jeremiah Zagar
Beautifully directed, Captivated, is a twisting and turning exploration of media and the power that it wields. A great conversation starter about media, it asks both content creators and consumers to question the things we make and see, even while we are watching the film. This film is the documentary companion to Paddy Chayefsky and Sidney Lumet’s fantastic Network. Zagar is masterful in the mixing of archival and shot footage, and his method of framing and presenting archival footage is beautiful and poignant.

The Hand that Feeds dir. Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick
Scrappy, funny, and moving this film takes a look at something that most people don’t pay attention to-the rights of low-wage workers. Following the journey of a group of workers in a “Hot and Crusty” shop in New York City, The Hand that Feeds is an amazing example of clarity and editing as you follow the works over quite a long period of time but still fully understand the narrative. It does an amazing job juggling a color ensemble. The film deals with an issue that impacts millions of people but is hidden to many, there are moments of heart-wrenching disappointing, bu the film is wonderfully fun and inspiring, an important reason that made it the winner of the Full Frame Audience Award.

Ivory Tower dir. Andrew Rossi
A film that has some structural issues, Ivory Tower, is still a piece that I would recommend to everyone, especially if you are a student. Well-researched and full of differing perspectives, Ivory Tower, explores the higher education system and some of the issues that have arisen as the system and expectations have changed. A great conversation starter about education and our American system in particular, it will may make you think differently about the years (and money) you are spending in college.

The Case Against 8 dir. Ben Cotner and Ryan White
Following the appeal case of two California couples against Proposition 8, The Case Against 8, looks beyond the legalese and explores the people behind the case. A wonderful example of how to compress years into a well-structured and organized, as well as deal with a diverse cast. The Case Against 8 is a beautiful and moving film that inspires as much as it reveals.

Evolution of a Criminal dir. Darius Clark Monroe
First person documentaries are not normally what people imagine documentaries to be but Darius Clark Monroe’s Evolution of a Criminal, is an intimate, powerful story about the filmmaker and those around him. Winner of both the Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award and the Center of Documentary Studies Award at Full Frame, Evolution of a Criminal, mixes interviews with recreations beautifully and powerfully. Monroe’s thesis film out of NYU, he expertly plays with expectations and rhythm as he explores criminals and criminality. Darius Clarke Monroe is a filmmaker to keep an eye out for.

Hacked Circuit dir. Deborah Stratman
A beautifully shot short film that explores foley artists, I admit that this pick is a bit self-indulgent. As a filmmaker I’ve always love getting a chance to explore some of the lesser known steps of filmmaking. Beyond the seeing the amazing amount of detail that the artists take, the entire film is shot in one floating take, and contains some clips from one of my favorite movies. Go check out Hacked Circuit and appreciate one more aspect of filmmaking.

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Snowpocalypse 2014

Click on a photo to open a prettier gallery view.

All photos taken by Wynton Wong

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When I Cry

Never judge from a single moment

Never judge from a single moment

Know that when I cry I am not ashamed. Not ashamed of the tears running down my face, the growing redness of my eyes, and my inability to breathe consistently. That as you judge me I’m still working and thinking.

Know that when I cry, it is not negative. It is not bad or sad or weak that I cry. That tears are natural and beautiful just like a smile or that twinkle in my eye.
Know that when I cry it is not about you. It is not about the words you’ve said or the things you did. That whatever you think you did to target me, to make me cry, is not true.
Know that when I cry it is always for me, by me, in me. You did not break my heart, I did for believing and trusting you. You did not defeat me, I did. You did not hurt me, I did. You can say that I don’t have that control. And I don’t, but neither do you.
Know that when I cry I am strong. I am as strong as when I laugh or when I shout. I am always fighting, whether it is through tears and gritted teeth or with a smirk on my face.
Know that when I cry I appreciate everything that you do. Whether it is a hug or a gentle words, know that every bit helps but also know that whatever it is I will fight, I will work through it, and I will ask for help.
I will change, for better or worse, and I will cry. Just like I will smile, shout and laugh. I will cry and I am proud of it.
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FDOC Spring 2014

 

Seaside Cliff

Gorgeous cliff and sea in Tulum, Mexico. Photograph by Wynton Wong, 2013.

It is the first day of classes at Carolina in the spring semester of my junior year and I’m still at home working (no class till 5pm) being two blog posts behind (I’ll catch up I promise.)

I miss Mexico…

 

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Tulum Performers

Tulum Performers  by wwingwong
Tulum Performers , a photo by wwingwong on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
After a performing a ceremonial dance, two performers take a break from the sun. Mexico Winter ’13

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Plans for this blog in 2014

Day 2 of fulfilling new year resolutions has gone well so far with this post being the bit of writing that I’ll be doing today. 

This blog has always been a bit of a nebulous wormhole for some of my written thoughts and I think it’s about time that a certain amount of structure is brought in. One-because structure definitely helps with productivity and two-consistent and engaging posts on the Internet builds my portfolio which may lead to more things in my future (or the opposite…) 
The Plan-At least one post a day
     Post meaning anything and everything-rants, essays, reviews, photos, videos, etc. I’m planning on filling this place with something everyday.
I’m planning on posting about the movies I watch, the books I read, etc. I also want to do some researched pieces and I will definitely be posting more of my pictures and videos.
To say that I’m excited to force myself to post something to the Internet public is a bit of a stretch but 2014 is all about doing new things (plus the NSA has all of my privacy anyways) so let’s do this.
 
See you tomorrow, Internet.
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