My New Short Film – “The American Dream”


With the premiere of my short film this morning in Moraga, I’m now finally able to post The American Dream, my entry to the Iron Filmmaker Contest of the California Independent Film Festival.

The 24-hour film contest, which I last entered in 2013 with The Drive Home, was a very fun and collaborative experience. To ensure that the film was made during the 24 hour time period, we had to incorporate the following three “ingredients” into the movie:

  1. Theme – The film had to carry the theme, “All in a Day’s Work.”
  2. Prop – One of the main characters had to hold a roll of toilet paper as a prop in one scene.
  3. Dialogue – A character had to say the line, “Stop doubting yourself, work hard and make it happen.”

It was an interesting task to develop a movie idea that incorporates all of these ingredients and to tell it within a 3 minute time frame. Fortunately, with a great brain trust of friends who joined me for a power brunch meeting, we hashed out a few different ideas and then zoned in on the one that became this short film. It was a lot of fun brainstorming different concepts and ideas and who knows? Some of those that we did not pursue may come up in a future production.

I want to thank my friends Abe, Anna, Ian, Steph, Susan, and Varnee who helped develop and conceive of the idea, then helped me out with acting and filming the rest of the day. Without them, this film truly would not have happened. I also want to thank my other friends and family for their support and encouragement as I got back into doing this kind of filmmaking. While I’ve shot various shorts for work and my CalSO group over the last few years, this is my first original short in three years. It definitely re-ignited my passion and interest in filmmaking and I hope to do more of it soon.

About the Film:

For those of you not from the area, the housing landscape in the San Francisco Bay Area has really changed dramatically over the last few years. Between new high rises going up in the city, gentrification going on in specific neighborhoods, and rising rent and housing prices throughout the area, it’s become a bit disillusioning to rent or to even buy a decent place without mortgaging your entire future. Through a collection of shared stories of our own housing experiences, we came up with this story that kind of pokes fun and illustrates a bit of what that experience is like today in 2016.

I’m really proud of this short, especially with how it was built organically through the process. I also like how it’s a bit more of a commentary on an issue, which is something I have never done before.

I hope you enjoy this short film. And feel free to share it with your friends too!

Star Trek vs. Star Wars

[Note: I originally wrote this on my new Medium account]

There’s this really big question that I’ve been asked so many times over the years: Star Trek or Star Wars? And the answer is surprisingly very easy to answer.

I’m a Trekkie. Or a Trekker. Or in more modern day terms, I’m Team Star Trek.

While I love both franchises a lot — and I do mean a lot based on the toys, DVDs, nerd facts, and references I’ve given over the years — Star Trek still holds first position over Star Wars in my heart.

How did this happen? Well, it’s all because of Jabba the Hutt. At a young age (4 or 5?), I remember watching Star Wars with my family and when Jabba appeared in Jedi, I was so repulsed and frightened. Even when I saw Pizza the Hutt in Spaceballs, I was still feeling grossed out. In hindsight, it’s incredible thinking about how just one creature basically turned me off to the original trilogy. I never really ended up watching and understanding Star Wars until I was 12 and my dad borrowed it on a special edition laserdisc. It was only then that I became (obsessively) into Star Wars and watched and rewatched our dubbed copy on VHS.

And with that sci-fi opening in my life, Star Trek swooped right in. I honestly don’t know how I got introduced to it. One of my earliest memories was reading a description of the first movie in our weekly Boston Globe TV Guide, then being enthralled by the never-ending fly-by sequence of the Enterprise. I remember trying to work our TV antenna a certain way so I could pick up some weaker TV station that was showing the original series. I somehow became hooked and remember always trying to convince my parents to let me borrow the old movies and episodes on TV from our local video store. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, and so on… those were my guys.

As an aside… True fact and spoiler alert for a movie 34 years old — I was incredibly sad over the death of Spock in Star Trek II. I may have cried. Don’t judge! Anyway, when my dad saw all of this, he consoled me by telling me that there was Star Trek III available at the video store and he was in it. It was the first sign that he would accidentally spoil movies and TV shows to me in the future.

When Star Trek IV came out on video, I remember borrowing it from our local Dairy Mart. When we popped it into the VCR, it included a teaser trailer to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was blown away. A new cast? A new Enterprise? A new Star Trek show? These were all concepts a 5 year old could barely grasp. I was struggling between understanding that and also probably understanding the idea of having a new baby sister around the same time.

And so, I became a Star Trek: The Next Generation guy and it just became something that continued to follow me week after week, then movie after movie throughout grade school and college. Picard, Riker, Data, Troi, Worf, Crusher, LaForge… those joined Kirk and company as my guys.

These past few months in 2016 have been amazing time for fans of both Star Trek and Star Wars. As a fan, I never would have thought there would be a time when both franchises would be active and thriving. For Star Wars, it renewed my credentials as a fan. Back in December when The Force Awakens came out, I saw it three times in less than a week. Yes, I am kind of a big fan.

But that pales in comparison to Star Trek. Later this week, I will be going to Las Vegas for almost a week to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of Star Trek at a convention. While I am also a little nervous at how crazy people get at these conventions based on my small taste last year and recent experience at a Comic-Con in Sacramento, I’m also getting increasingly excited about it. Hopefully, that will continue throughout the week.

Either way, I’ll be with my fellow Trekkies/Trekkers/Team Star Trek folks. And I’m kind of looking forward to that.

Thanks QOS / New Roads Ahead

Today was my last day as Consulting Manager in my department, Quality and Operations Support. It’s been a privilege and honour working in this group. Before I left, I sent out this obligatory thank you email. Enjoy.

Hi everyone,

As many of you are aware, today is my last day in QOS. After a little vacation up in the Great White North, I will be starting up in the Medicare Business Analytics department in Program Office on March 28th to manage an analytics team in their sales and marketing division.

As I think back to the last five years being in QOS, I cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for the opportunities given to me, the connections I’ve made, and the endless amount of support that I’ve had throughout my time here. If this was an Academy Awards speech, I would say the following super fast in 30 seconds:
– Thanks to Barbara, Dawn, and Sue for helping me to come “home” from NYC and telling me that I was already a manager and ready to be one here.
– Thanks to all the directors and leaders who have directly and indirectly influenced and supported my teams, projects, and initiatives.
– Thanks to all my fellow peers I’ve had in the management groups – AC, BC, and Credentialing.
– Thanks to Nicole, Rhonda, Zahra (60%), Michael (40%), and Maggie for being great direct managers and mentors to me.
– Thanks to all the amazing members of Team Garett, both present and alumni, for not only your hard work and dedication, throughout our time together but for putting up with all the bad jokes, Taylor Swift references, and endless movie/sport references during our 1-1s.
– Thanks to all my project teams for consistently inspiring me with the smart ideas and the endless potential you bring to the table day in and day out.
– Thanks to the Internship, Innovation, and BI Committee members for your energy, enthusiasm, and creativity through our work together.
– Thanks to the awesome Tech Support and Admin teams. It’s easy to forget your contributions and support for all of our work, so thank you for all your help.
– And to all the others I’ve had coffee, lunches, “innovation labs”, walks, and conversations with during my time here – thank you.

I once told someone that when I come into work everyday, I was always looking forward to the inspiration, possibilities, and the potential ideas that would present itself inevitably in the work that day. My recent encounters with family and friends impacted by breast and colorectal cancer, cardiac care, and emergency care remind me of how important the work we do in QOS is and how it reflects the best ideals and spirit of public health in helping our members’ lives. I hope you all continue to be proud of the work you are doing and know that it is all contributing towards a positive impact in our community’s well being. Thank you for your work and your continued dedication ahead as you continue figuring out new and better solutions in the future. And feel free to try an innovation skill, to try human-centered design techniques, or to take a chance on something new and different while you’re at it. As a founder of a nearby company once said, “there is no growth or success without change” (Ed Catmull). Or as another philsopher said, “This time, it ain’t just about being fast” (Dom Toretto).

As I move on to this new challenge ahead, I hope to carry along the lessons, the inspiration, and the spirit of QOS with me and spread them in others parts of KP. I’ll let you know how this long-term PDSA cycle goes. Perhaps I’ll make a SPC chart to reflect the process and may need a full treatment SPA along the way. Either way, I do hope we can keep in touch and stay connected. Thank you once again and see you all soon…. likely at Modern.

Garett Ng
——————
And now, my Top 10 highlights in QOS:

10.
2013: Initiating the very first SPA for our department with Michael Rothman in Dr. Madvig’s office only to learn that everyone was calling in to the meeting.
9.
2013: At the airplane gate in FL and celebrating a first class airplane upgrade for my return flight home from IHI in front of very senior KP leadership, then later finding out that I did not get this upgrade and needed to get on the plane of front of the same leadership.
8.
2013-2014: Forming the Innovation Committee with Emma. And if you’re interested in joining her and the committee, let her know!
7.
2014: At an All Staff meeting, I informed Dr. Pearl that I follow him on Twitter during the Q&A. He still has not followed me.
6.
2013: During a training for a legal deposition, I was instructed by the TPMG outside counsel that “If I touch your hand, you should shut up.” After training, I was never called to the deposition.
5.
2011: When I came in to interview at QOS, Sue told me that I was ready to be a manager despite the fact that I had indicated that I wanted a break from it. This changed the entire trajectory of my career. (no joke)
4.
2014: I met Secretary Hillary Clinton in Seattle and during my 1 min of allotted time to talk to her, I ended up talking to her about our KP/QOS work and how proud I was of it. I blacked out at what happened afterwards.
3.
2012: I won the regional Flu Vaccine video contest with this entry. I had no idea that I would have to explain to a significant number of people that the video was a fictional video.
2.
2012-2015: Over the course of 4 years, it was such a joy to work with fellow colleagues on recruiting some great new talent on the analytic side via our internship process. I was so happy for the work our team did and prouder of all the alums of the programs who have and will continue to succeed in our department.
1.
2015: At a recent AED sponsor meeting, the AED asked, “Why are we here?” After a pause, I responded, “Is that a rhetorical question?” The AED responded, “No.” That is applied innovation questioning skills!

 

My Pixar Movie Rankings

Fun evening at @disneypixar to see Inside Out.

In honor of the upcoming release of Inside Out, here are my rankings of Pixar movies.

15. Cars 2

14. A Bug’s Life

13. Brave

12. Cars

11. Monsters University

10. Ratatouille

9. Wall-E

8. Finding Nemo

7. Up

6. Monsters Inc.

5. Toy Story 3

4. Toy Story 2

3. Toy Story

2. Inside Out

1. The Incredibles

Ride or Die: 11 Days in HK and China

At the Top

The idea of going to China has been on my mind for a really, really long time. However, like a lot of things, it kept getting pushed aside for some other things like finding apartments in NYC, weddings, moving back to the Bay Area, and so forth. I began to wonder if it would actually happen.

Well, I can now say that it finally did. I think two things led to it. First, I began to really take to heart the idea of “Engage” being my word of the year and in January, marked this trip down as a vacation idea for May. Second, Rohit kept me accountable and we talked about it continuously leading up to March 16th when we both booked our tickets.

There was no turning back. The trip would either be incredibly genius or incredibly idiotic, but we decided to take the attitude that always pointed us in the right direction: ride or die.

Planning

After some calendar planning, we locked down the trip to follow this itinerary:

  • Fly into Hong Kong (2 days)
  • Beijing (4 days)
  • Shanghai (3 days)
  • Macau (2 days) by way of Guangzhou
  • Hong Kong (3 days)

It was a very aggressive plan for an 11 day trip, but we were young, able-bodied, and up for the challenge. What could go wrong?

After booking our intra-China flights and hotels and then getting our visas, the real planning began. In the trips I’ve taken the last few years, I’ve tended to know a few places I wanted to check out and then go with the flow. However, this trip felt different. As my dad reminded me, if I just went with the flow, I’d be wasting my time. Fortunately, with this little kick in the butt, I began to see for myself that for a trip like this, you just can’t plan enough.

Days 2-4: Hong Kong

Financial Buildings

Hotel: The Salisbury – YMCA of Hong Kong

Sights visited: Avenue of the Stars, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon Park, Stanley, Cheung Chau

Restaurants: Macau Restaurant, Seafront RestaurantHing Lok Restaurant

The last and only time I went to HK was 20 years ago. I remember bits and parts of the trip, most notably how hot and humid it was and all the counterfeit software they were selling in one of the districts. However, when I landed in HK and took the bus from Lantau Island all the way to my hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, it was such a different experience seeing it as an adult. Yes, it was still hot and humid and yes, I was still impressed by how great the MTR Subway system is. However, it was just great seeing the familiar skyline even though so much has changed and also being in a city where everyone spoke in Cantonese.

Noteworthy events:

  • We found a tailor and got sized up for suits that would be ready during the end of our trip. For two suits, the total cost came out to be a little over $400 US. Tailored-made.
  • Cheung Chau is one of HK’s islands and somewhere I had not gone before. What was interesting is that for the restaurant we ate at, we had to go to the local market to actually buy the fish and seafood that we wanted to have and brought it to the chef to cook.
  • The trip was my first introduction to Blue Girl beer. It would not be the last time I saw it.

Days 4-7: Beijing

In front of Tian'anmen

Hotel: Park Plaza Wangfujing

Sights visited: The Ming Tombs, The Great Wall (Mutianyu), Tian’anmen, Forbidden City, Hutongs, Qianhai Lake, Bell and Drum Tower, Yonghe Temple, Temple of Heaven

Restaurants: Great Leap Brewing, Zuǒ Lín Yòu Shè, random Halal place on Ya’er Hutong, Jingshui Café, Dadong Roast Duck Restaurant

When we landed at the Beijing airport and took a cab to our hotel, I was instantly worried. From looking out the window, the smog and air pollution were layered and thick. There was one point when our taxi made a turn onto another highway on-ramp that I wondered if the entire experience would be shaped by wearing a face mask to protect our inhalation. Fortunately, we got lucky. The air cleared out, and we got some great weather as we toured around.

Overall, Beijing reminded me a lot of Washington DC with all of the truly historical sites scattered throughout the city. From the Forbidden City to the various towers and temples we visited, there is so much steeped in history of the various dynasties and empires from the past. Walking up the Great Wall was a whole other experience. As we aggressively hiked to Tower 22 of the Mutianyu part of the Great Wall, I was first struck by the limited number of tourists who make it this far (we did bump into a couple that encouraged us with Rocky jokes), and then by the sheer scale and size of the wall. While panting quite a bit from the steep steps with a backpack full of cameras in tow, I thought about the soldiers who would have to run up and down the wall as part of their duties for protection. Unbelievable.

The other thing that struck me about Beijing was the increasing number of globalized icons present throughout the city. The Wangfujing area where we stayed in contains an enormous number of very high end designer stores (think Gucci and Prada). There are bars like the Great Leap Brewing restaurant, which could have been something straight out of Oakland. The idea of a globalized and connected world really came to a head while taking a break at the Jingshui Café. Even though there was a huge language barrier between us and the baristas, we were able to communicate hipster to hipster what we wanted, where the bathroom was, and what the wifi password was. Despite some major cultural differences, you realize there are a lot of other things that aren’t so different in.

Days 7-9: Shanghai

Tourist Walking

Hotel: Shanghai Marriott City Centre

Sights visited: People’s Square, The Bund, Nanjing Pedestrian Road, Jazz Club at the Peace Hotel, Shanghai-Hangzhou high speed railway, Hangzhou West Lake, Pudong, The Shanghai World Financial Center

Restaurants: Shen Menlan Wife Seafood Noodles, Ajisen Ramen

If Beijing was a window into the past, Shanghai felt like a window into the future. One of the most mesmerizing sights from the entire trip was being on the Bund during “magic hour” and watching the Shanghai skyline transform into a light spectacle as it got darker. While we were a little annoyed at arriving into Shanghai a little later than anticipated, we ended up being hypnotized by the scenery and spent close to two hours there taking in the scene and taking photos. Going up to the Shanghai World Financial Center, which has an observatory on the 100th floor, was an added treat to seeing Shanghai at a different angle.

We also took the opportunity to take the bullet train to Hangzhou, a city about 165 km away from Shanghai. On the bullet train, the trip took less than an hour and it was amazing wising by one city and town after another. The West Lake, the main destination in Hangzhou, was just amazing to see and made the day trip over there worth it.

Two funny anecdotes:

  • When we checked into our hotel, we realized that there was a clear window between the bathroom and the hotel room. We immediately went to work to figure out how to close the blinds in the bathroom.
  • Nanjing Road was a bit like Time Square in NYC. There were so many shops and ads throughout the street and it was really cool to see everyone out and about in the early evening. Later that evening – it was a completely different story. Between street peddlers who stood on corners asking anyone walking by if they were looking for massages to just random women who just walked straight up at us asking for something more than a massage, I had flashbacks of Lucerne. Fortunately, we just walked a little faster and got back to the hotel in no time. With a pitstop at KFC.

While we didn’t get a chance to see everything that Shanghai has to offer, it will just make that next visit much more interesting. When we were leaving the city, I definitely felt like I’d be back sooner than I thought. I hope that is true.

Days 9-10: Macau

City Centre
Hotel: Holiday Inn Macau

Sights: Magic VI, Historic Centre of Macau, New Yaohan

Restaurants: Lei Hong Kei

After Shanghai, we flew to Guangzhou, where my uncle picked us up. After a pitstop in his house in the suburbs, we drove to the port of Macau and parked his car. In China, drivers drive on the right side of the road like in the US. After walking through customs and leaving China (yes, we walked out of China), it was amusing to see the cars driving the British way on the left side.

Like HK, I went to Macau 20 years ago and barely remember any of it. After a fun evening with dinner at this Chinese restaurant my grandfather used to take my dad and relatives and karaoke, we got a chance to explore the historical city center, which was packed full of tourists. The city’s architecture is an interesting blend of European and Chinese styles. It was also pretty interesting to see all of these casinos popping up.

Days 10-12: Hong Kong

Street Signs
Hotel: Sheraton Hong Kong Towers

Restaurants: Tung Po Kitchen, Macau Restaurant, Ding Tai Fung, Japan Boat Takoyaki

Sights: Man Mo Temple, Upper Lascar Row, Victoria Peak, Ladies Market, Symphony of Lights

By the time we got back to Hong Kong, we were definitely exhausted and tired from all the traveling. However, we did get a good chance to do some real sightseeing despite the rainy weather.

One of my personal highlights was being able to navigate through the Ladies Market, a street market full of knockoffs and counterfeit items. I think I put the full use of my Cantonese knowledge in display by bargaining and negotiating with the various vendors. My prized purchase was a knock off Tom Brady jersey, which I bought for $20. As the lady selling noted, it looks authentic because it has the Nike symbol. Score!

Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Boats, and lots of Walking

Thumbs Up
I joked with Rohit that it felt like we were part of the sequel to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles by the amount of traveling we were doing. Some general thoughts on the travel aspects:

  • My cousin warned us that the Chinese airlines would get delayed for no good reason, and he was absolutely right. All of our flights were delayed a bit, but it all worked out in the end.
  • The United Club Lounges in Tokyo and Hong Kong are significantly better than those in the US since they feature such amenities like showers, self-service bars, and actual food.
  • Boarding and getting off airplanes over there is an old school process involving shuttle buses to the planes and stairs leading you on and off of them. I faked waved to the invisible crowd when we landed in Beijing.
  • The subways in all of the cities were surprisingly easy to navigate and highly efficiently.
  • Apple Maps, which is not blocked in China, became incredibly clutch as we navigated around the cities.
  • City blocks on the map in Beijing turned out to be at least 1 KM. They were freakin huge and added to our 35K steps days.

Reflections

Furious 7

It’s been a little over two weeks since I returned from Hong Kong, and I’m still on a high from the trip. Taking this trip and vacation is something I am so glad I was able to do and finally make happen. It allowed me the opportunity to see the other side of the world and the life and culture that is often not depicted well in western media. I recently listened to a podcast where John Cusack described his experiences shooting a movie in China and reflecting on how there’s a whole world out there going on beyond his bubble. After hearing this, I totally got what he was saying. Even during the trip, I just remember frequently looking at my watch and thinking how everyone at home was asleep while I was seeing and doing all of these cool things.

Outside the North Gate

I’m incredibly glad that I got to go on this trip with Rohit too. I don’t know when we started to talk about taking this trip, but it was great to finally do it and make it happen for real. Most importantly, I’m so glad we didn’t kill each other by the end of the trip. You can probably thank the Furious 7 movie for that based on the amount of jokes we made throughout the trip.

By the Lake

When I was flying back home from this trip, I was really thinking about how much China is currently undergoing a major transformation that started as it opened up its market and culture to the world. When we left Beijing and Shanghai, I asked Rohit what he thought the cities would be like 10 or 20 years from now. We both conjectured a little bit about this, but the hope I do have is that I’ll be able to see it myself. And hopefully not in that too long of a time period.

Yes, I went to Beijing to take this photo.

One Last Thing…

I took a ton of photos during the trip, which you can see here:
Flickr – May 2015: HK/China

You can also check out this highlights video of some of the stuff I shot during the 11 days:

Viewed in February 2015

Star Trek
Inherent Vice
Bourne Identity
Her
Fresh Off The Boat (S1)
Bourne Supremacy
The Kingsmen: Secret Service
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Boyhood
The Interview
Pineapple Express
Star Trek Into Darkness
Hot Tub Time Machine
Parks and Recreation (S7)
Agent Carter (S1)
Fury
Fast Five