Nu Alpha Phi
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Andrew Hoyem’s Arion Press
Memoirs of a Moviemaker
Playing with Children of the Tsunami
June 30, 2005
I was a recipient of the Nu Alpha Phi Scholarship for the Spring 2005 semester. My parents received the notice while I was studying abroad in Costa Rica, and they have just forwarded it to me. I’m sorry for the delay in responding, but I wanted to tell you how grateful I am for your contribution to my education.
My family has had some recent changes in our financial situation, and we have been nervous about being able to continue paying Pomona tuition. However, your scholarship has been very reassuring, and Pomona has been very sensitive to our need.
Thank you for your continued support. I admire your generosity.
November 21, 2006
I am pleased to report to you on the 2006-2007 Nu Alpha Phi Scholarship. We have selected the following third year students to be honored as the Nu Alpha Phi Scholars: Brittney Andres, from Mattoon, Illinois; Samuel Becerra, from Oakland, California; Thomas Cross, from Santa Barbara, California; Tiamaht Erickson, from Portland, Oregon; and Michel Grosz from Van Nuys, California.
Brittney Andres, a Politics major, aspires to a career in journalism. She is very interested in food safety and farm workers’ conditions, and she writes a food column for The Student Life. This spring, she will study in Washington, D.C. through Claremont McKenna’s Washington program. In her spare time, she works at Some Crust bakery in Claremont.
Samuel Becerra, an Economics major, is considering a career in investment banking, and he plans on earning an advanced degree in business. Samuel finds philanthropic endeavors compelling and is passionate about art. He plans on completing a minor in art and finding continued expression for his interest after graduating.
Thomas Cross, a History major, is considering a career in education, and he hopes to instill the same passion for intellectual experience that he has in his future students. This spring, he will study in Montpellier, France, through the Pomona College Study Abroad Program.
Tiamaht Erickson, a Romance languages and literature major, is considering a career in international law. This fall, Tiamaht is studying in Paris through the Pomona College Study Abroad program. She is on the Sagehen Track and Field team, and in her spare time, she enjoys rock climbing.
Michel Grosz, an Economics major, is considering a career in education. Michel swims long distance and breaststroke for the Sagehen swim team. He enjoys rock climbing and is part of the On-The-Loose outdoors club.
On behalf of Pomona College and the students who benefit from the support of the Nu Alpha Phi scholarship, I want to convey our gratitude for the generous gifts which have made this scholarship possible.
Arion Press now has an e-mail newsletter that bibliophiles should really subscribe to. Navigate here:
And look for the “Email News List” link. If you missed our reporting on Arion Press in the March, 1999 issue of the Oak Leaf, here are some words from Arion Press’ website:
Arion Press aims to match the finest contemporary art with the finest literature past and present in books that are beautifully designed and produced.
Printer-publisher Andrew Hoyem ‘57 #464 employs the exacting standards and skilled craftsmanship of the fine printing tradition in the service of an ambitious publication program. Two to three limited edition books are published per year. Each is conceptually unique, bringing together a significant text with a contemporary artist, or in other cases, a purely typographic interpretation. Those illustrated by prominent artists are often accompanied by separate editions of original prints.
The texts of the more than seventy Arion Press publications are characterized by their diversity and intellectual depth, with titles that range from ancient literature to modern classics. Its authors extend from Ovid to Shakespeare, Laurence Sterne, Herman Melville, Gertrude Stein, Sigmund Freud, Italo Calvino, Allen Ginsberg, Seamus Heaney and David Mamet.
[In the time it has taken me to publish, Harrison Montgomery has entered post-production. Check the website at the end of the article for the latest news and needs. –Ed.]
Every spring the Academy Awards roll around and get America thinking about the movies. Who will win best actor, which director will take home the statue, and (arguably most exciting) what is that woman wearing? All the glitter and glamour celebrate the culmination of years of work done by hundreds, if not thousands of people on each film.
Everyone knows the director, the stars, maybe even the producers, but supporting these figures are entire departments of crew. Let’s take a moment to sing the praises of the prop manager who decided what Frodo’s ring would look like in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or the hair and make-up coordinator that decided Reese Witherspoon’s hair would shine just so in Walk the Line. The movie stars get up to take the bow, but these are the people who make the magic happen.
Film is arguably the most collaborative art form of our time. Just the act of writing a screenplay, though often depicted as a lone artist sitting late at night at the glowing monitor, is more often than not the result of an entire team of producers and writers, debating every word. Imagine if the producers of The Wizard of Oz had settled for “there’s nowhere like home” – it’s just not the same.
Once the script is set, the producers embark on the task of fund raising. If you’re Spielberg you simply pick up the phone and have the money wired to your account, but for most filmmakers, and especially for the independent ones, this is the biggest hurdle. You hustle, wheel, deal, wine and dine. They look over your business plan and inquire, “Who’s in it?” You ask everyone you know if they know anyone who knows Sarah Jessica Parker. You manage to get her the script, and her agent asks how much you can pay. So it’s back to the investors, who want to know how much she will charge. You go back to her agent to work on a deal, and continue this dance for a few more rounds.
If you’re good (and lucky), you eventually have the money to make your film. You have the cast, you’ve hired your crew and you’re ready to spend a couple weeks on very little sleep making your vision come to life. This is magic time, the reason artists work so hard for the years leading up to it. You get to make your movie.
This April 28th, when Nappies new and old gather for the alumni wash, keep your eye out for three in particular who are currently in the middle of this artistic endeavor; Karim Ahmad (#1152, PO’99) April Dávila (#1148, SC’99) and Daniel Dávila (Nappie-in-law, CMC ’96). This dynamic trio heads up the independent film production company Momentum Cinema, based in San Francisco, and they’re circling the country to rally support for their upcoming feature film Harrison Montgomery.
The story takes place in a rundown apartment complex in San Francisco’s poverty-stricken Tenderloin neighborhood, where septuagenarian Harrison Montgomery is waiting for his final message. For decades the eccentric recluse has chronicled the phrases of the Wheel of Fortune and deciphered their hidden meaning - the details of a mission to save his neighbors: Ricardo Papa, a small-time drug dealer with artistic aspirations, who struggles to escape the world of crime, and Margo, a single mother trapped in an abusive relationship in the name of financial security and a stable home for her daughter Lattie. It takes Harrison’s magic, the revelation of his final purpose, and Lattie’s kindness to free Ricardo and Margo, and restore karmic justice when it is needed most.
The film is the debut feature project for Momentum Cinema. After two years in development, undergoing rewrites and revisions, it is finally ready for production. Shooting is slated for July and August of this year.
Between now and then the team will grow exponentially as cast and crew are added. Locations will be scouted and bargained for, storyboards will be drawn for every shot in the film, and special effects will be meticulously planned. The producers see this endeavor as the ultimate artistic expression, a community effort to top all projects taken on before. If you have ever considered getting involved in film, you are hereby encouraged you to jump on board and join them. By making a simple phone call to connect these alumni to a friend of a friend you will have become a part of the filmmaking process and joined the ranks of the glitterati.
They may not mention you specifically in their Oscar speech, but when they say, “I’d like to thank everyone who made this possible,” you will know that they are talking about you.
April Collier Davila ‘99 #1148
March 1, 2006
Corrugated sheds line up like game pieces, boosted on spindly posts 1.5 meters off the mud and the detritus of daily life: laundry hanging, dogs scratching, a baby banana palm reaching its giant fronds skyward, a candy wrapper.
Smiling brown faces on the balcony, running to the railing. Their excitement spills down the stairs to greet us. Feet pattering on the already hot metal floor with escaping energy. The ‘farangs’ are here to play – they are here, they are here!
The Rules of the Game
Everyone heard the reports of death and devastation caused by the December 26th tsunami that hit the beaches of Asia and Africa in 2004. The iconic police boat sitting 3 kilometers from the sea at the edge of a rubber plantation in Khao Lak, Thailand is hard to forget. The pictures on CNN and news media “reports from the front” were, if not constant, significantly present. Followed by the Afghanistan earthquake, the U.S. Hurricane season and a dozen other catastrophes it all seemed to signal something larger to the conspiracy theorists or “end-times” prophets of the world.
Like most of U.S. citizens, I met the news of the tsunami in an overindulged post-Christmas haze and thought empathetically of “those poor people” wondering what I could possibly do. Like many, I sent money to my favorite relief group with a note attached – “for tsunami relief”. Like most, I went back to my American life feeling sad and empathetic but powerless to do more. After all, I had responsibilities…
Three hundred and sixty five days brought a lot of change. I watched the emotional tsunami memorials on CNN on December 26th, 2005 from my new home in Bangkok, Thailand. I watched with particular interest because I would soon go to Khao Lak, a quiet fishing and resort community hit hard by a 30 foot wave. I had the opportunity to work with children at the Thai Red Cross ‘Healing Through Learning’ Centers in the temporary communities housing the displaced fishing villages of Baan Muang, Baan Lued and Baan Nam Khem.
I was one of three parents from KIS International School in Bangkok who were talking one night over a heat-beating beer, and in that casual conversation, an idea was born. We had read and heard that many of the kids who had lost family, friends, homes and school in a fifteen minute, watery Armageddon, were having problems finding a way to express their grief, fear and anger in non-destructive ways. Drug use, teen pregnancy and depression were all rising fast in the Khao Lak area.
One of the parents, Peter Salnikowski, works with an international aid group and talked about helping Hmong refugee kids prepare for a new life in a new country. I remembered a volunteer stint spent playing theatre games with American kids who had fled family violence. Peter and I had both found that improvisation gave the kids we had worked with a means to voice their emotions - a moment of control at a time when they had no control over their lives. The third parent in the group, Kathy France, is a theatre professor at Chulalongkorn University. Kathy had a great list of basic non-language dependent theatre games and a lot of experience as a group leader. We realized we might be able to do something meaningful.
Throwing together our work experience, a connection to the Thai Red Cross, and a modicum of cautious optimism, we proposed a workshop. We volunteered to do an improvisational theatre workshop as a means of encouraging tsunami-traumatized kids to find positive outlets for self-expression and control through play and creative activity. Even our kids thought it was a great idea and soon Haydon (age 11), Sierra (age 8) and Ethan (age 6) were in on the plan.
The Pieces on the Board: Working in Khao Lak
It is easy to wax dramatic – the place begs for it – with tangible history written everywhere from recovering salt-grey vegetation to skeleton structures to laminated photos pinned to trees. As we arrived at each of the three Centers, the visible delight of the waiting children brought me to that porous border between joy and grief. That is the emotional landscape these children live in. The tsunami took 941 people (60%) from one of the villages and destroyed nearly 4/5th's of the housing. The other villages offer only slightly less devastating statistics.
What look like gray Monopoly game pieces in the distance are the corrugated shed homes that contain the lives of these damaged communities. What was once called Baan Nam Khem is now moved, divided up, and named for the various donors who have generously built housing for the homeless. It is something like the refugee version of American sports stadiums – but instead of ‘Generic Superstore Field’, they are named for a television station and a French department store chain. Baan Nam Khem gets a lot of media attention, but Baan Muang looks just the same, and Baan Lued has moved to a giant Motel 6ish building along the highway – far from its fishing livelihood at the water’s edge. The villagers hold onto the name of their relocated communities even when the sign out front says “Generic Superstore Village”.
The 70-some kids we met at the three ‘Healing through Learning’ Centers played with unexpected vigor. Some were shy, but in less than an hour the most timid were screaming with joy at statue freeze tag, making a rhythm band with their stomping feet and clapping hands and playing Gai Baa (crazy chicken) with us. They danced and sang, they made up stories and characters. The young ones sat on laps and held available hands; the older ones asked questions and challenged us to share something of ourselves. At one point, the kids voted for me to “bust a few moves” and accompany some rapping teenage boys with my best acoustic mouth sounds. I have never been smooth enough to pull something like that off, but it was definitely worth the gut-wrenching laugh we all had.
Some of the kids eat so much sugar their teeth are rotting, but it is hard to present a case for good dental hygiene when everything familiar can disappear in a universal blink. The true nature of how changed these people’s lives are is tempting to deny because when fully considered, it highlights the fragility of our control over the world we create for ourselves. It was humbling to meet these resilient and beautiful children.
After nine meager and exhausting hours over two days, we left the Centers with hugs and thanks and invitations to return. I don’t imagine we will ever know if our improvisation workshops made a measurable difference in the lives of the children that we met. I hope so. I do know that the children of the tsunami brought something immeasurable to those of us who had the precious opportunity to play with them.
Kelly McDonald ‘89 #1001