Project Thompson 01 with Jasyn Lucas Banner

Project Thompson: Episode 1 with Jasyn Lucas.

Written and hosted by Dennis Foley in this provisionally named documentary series, we sit down and talk with people around Thompson, Manitoba about their stories and opinions about their lives in the Hub of the North.

In this first episode, Dennis sat down with Jasyn Lucas, a prolific artist whose works include the Northern Lights, wolves, and other Aboriginal inspired paintings.

When Dennis approached me for the project, he wanted to focus on the positive aspects of living so far up north in Canada. Most people usually respond negatively when it came to Thompson, and it took 36 years for this humble filmmaker to learn that his family and friends lived here. I spent the entire time trying to get out of Thompson and it seemed that in the blink of an eye, I planted roots and realized that if you actually took the time to look, Thompson is actually a wonderful place to live.

Project Thompson 01 with Jasyn Lucas Banner

A lot of what Jasyn said really resonated with me. It was coming into alignment with what I was starting to see. I know the video is pretty long for a guy sitting around talking about his life and this place; I totally could have edited it to make it shorter, but I don’t want to just make films. I want to make emotions tangible and immortalize them for generations to see.

Sure, it’s butt-freezing cold in the winter, but no different than most places in Canada. You’d be surprised how easy it is to adjust from -25°C to -50°C with windchill.

There’s crime. There’s always crime. But to be labeled as a murder capital is only that – a label. There’s no more or less crime per capita here than any other place, and despite what the numbers say, you won’t see crime unless you actually go looking for it like a damned fool.

Project Thompson 01 with Jasyn Lucas Poster

Food selection may be limited, but I believe this has made accomplished cooks out of the residents of Thompson. So if you can’t cook or like to eat out, then either make peace with becoming proficient at cooking or make friends who can cook and invite yourself over for supper; I guarantee the friendly people will accommodate you and more! Just make sure to chip in for groceries and do them a favor here and there. :)

Maybe one day, I’ll go to Vancouver and attend film school or fulfill my dreams of traveling the world and making documentaries, but no matter what happens I will always come back to Thompson and proudly call it my home. I became the person I am today because of my family, my friends, and my hometown.

So why not come up and visit the Hub of the North?

Check out this project on my Behance portfolio!

Jennilee Martineau - Live at AACNM 2014 Banner

Jennilee Martineau: Live at AACNM 2014.

My sister-in-law, Jennilee (jennileemartineau.com/), is a professional fiddle player based in Thompson, Manitoba. She does gigs throughout the province and regularly travels internationally to self-invest in improving her skills.

Once I started getting into filmmaking, directing, and producing, she asked me to film her live performance on April 21st at the AACNM (Aboriginal Art Centre for Northern Manitoba) event at the TRCC (Thompson Regional Community Centre) with a set list of 8 songs for a 30 minute time slot.

Armed with a Canon 600D, a basic Manfrotto video tripod, a Zoom H4n, and a Rode NTG-2, I made some establishing shots of the TRCC building itself, which was built just the year prior; the architecture is modern with lots of steel, glass, and an industrial feel.

I wanted to integrate this beautiful venue into her performance, so I wrote up a quick script in Celtx for me to follow, and given that I used to work at the building, I knew the path I wanted to take. I was also very careful with the way I composed my shots; I didn’t have time to write up release forms and even though it was a public event and this project was strictly pro bono, I wanted to ensure I would never need them, so I purposely filmed crowds out of focus as both an artistic and legal choice.

Jennilee Martineau - Live at AACNM 2014 Banner

I did a lot of research prior to the event, and had a reasonable expectation of things that could go wrong. Despite all that, I ran into the following challenges during this shoot:

  • My batteries ran out on my Zoom H4n, and I quickly learned that it was a battery hog when recording
  • I didn’t have a long enough XLR cable to connect to the audio technician’s equipment, which resulted in my mic being too far away from the performance area, so the audio from that source was unusable
  • The XLR input connecting to the audio technician’s equipment was a signal that had levels tuned for live speakers; while the sound was sharp and clear, it peaked many times which presented an issue with sound quality
  • The event coordinators had set up performance lights that constantly changed colors, which messed with the overall white balance of my shots

Jennilee Martineau - Live at AACNM 2014 Poster

Despite all this, I feel that this resulting film was a decent first try. Right after this event, I got tossed enthusiastically into other film projects and I learned a lot before I even stepped into post production with this film, hence why it took so long for me to produce. I also crash coursed through After Effects training to create the opening titles, which took me an extra week.

Could I have done better? Definitely. I recognized the issues I had as soon as I got the footage into Premiere, but I forged ahead anyway, determined to make the best out of a bad situation. While the film is not perfect, I put aside my self criticism and accepted that whatever I did, it would be my 100% and that this would contribute to my learning experience and workflow improvement.

TL;DR I’m a beginner that learned a lot of things while shooting and producing this film.

Filmed on Canon 600D. Produced in Premiere Pro with Colorista II, Adobe Audition, and Adobe After Effects.
I hope you enjoyed it! This is definitely not the last you’ll see of Jennilee or myself! Until the next time!

Check out this project on my Behance portfolio!

2014 at a glance.

2014 at a glance.

Things changed rapidly for me in 2013 that I didn’t have a chance to chronicle until now. 2012 was kind of an unproductive year, but I learned what I didn’t want to do with my life.

So in 2014, I’m not going to make typical New Year’s resolutions, which may or may not have something to do with 2014 being my zodiac year (i.e. Year of the Horse).

To summarize 2013, things drastically changed for me. I decided to change careers, lost my job while doing so, found out I didn’t like my new career direction, and stumbled across some things I always wanted to do and found out I liked them more. I also started and ended a relationship, but that’s another story.

In 2014, I’m going to keep moving forward, discovering new things, finding out what works for me, and getting the life I always wanted.

2014 at a glance.

With that said, I decided to rebrand myself. Welcome to ZhangYaohan.com, by the way. This is my new home and a celebration of all things me. I’m still Hann, but I felt that such a drastic career change called for a new professional identity. Not that it’s much different than before; I just decided to spell my name using the Pinyin international standard. Creative, yes? :)

Vanilla MasterCard hacking tips.

Vanilla MasterCard hacking tips.

No, this isn’t some illegal scam on trying to steal from MasterCard. I’m not that kind of hacker. This is actually about maximizing your use of the Vanilla MasterCard (henceforth referred to as VMC) in Canada. As Canadians, we seem to get screwed over a lot in retail goods when compared to our southern neighbors, but with a little ingenuity and this article, we can perhaps try to work the system to our advantage.

I usually buy my VMCs from Shoppers Drug Mart or petrol stations like Shell or Petro-Canada. You can register it on the VMC website as a US credit card with any valid ZIP code. You just have to make sure to match the City and State to which the ZIP code belongs. I’ve been doing this for a few years now and haven’t had any issues.

One thing to note though is that if you buy a VMC that’s close in value to what you’re buying (e.g. buying a $25 card for a $22.99 purchase), some companies will do a small pre-authorization charge on the card, making the full balance unavailable for 3-7 days. Keep this in mind when dealing with services like Rdio’s Family Plan for three (which is exactly $22.99 US).

Another thing to keep in mind is that even though you are registering the VMC as a US card, transactions still take place in Canadian funds. So a $25 card will only give you whatever the exchange rate is for US funds.

The main disadvantage with VMCs is the activation fee you have to pay for at the counter. It starts at $1.95 for a $25 card and goes up to something like $7.95 for a $200 card. However, you don’t get charged periodic interest and the balance virtually stays with you until you either spend the full amount or you exceed the expiration date. VMC is one of the few gift cards that don’t try to eat up your money if you leave it dormant.

Pro Tip

For pesky minor balances of a few cents and dollars that you can’t find something on which to spend, just buy a custom Amazon.ca email gift certificate and send it back to yourself. I’ve accumulated enough of an Amazon gift card balance on my account with all the cards I’ve bought over the years. It adds up. The reason I choose Amazon.ca is because VMC deals in Canadian funds, and trying to find the exact exchange rate used by Amazon.com is like pulling teeth. Save yourself the hassle. Also, don’t forget to login to the VMC website to register your card back to a Canadian postal code.

Vanilla MasterCard hacking tips.

On a separate note, VMC also coincidentally stands for Vergil May Cry. Hmm.

My adventures as a polyglot.

My adventures as a polyglot.

As I had previously announced on Facebook, one of my life goals is to become a polyglot. It’s always been a personal goal of mine when I think about it; I’ve been super interested in languages even from a young age. Although I didn’t speak it, I had a rudimentary understanding of Cantonese-Chinese, which is my parents’ native language.

At some point in my Kindergarten age I was speaking Cantonese-Chinese fluently, but growing up in a small community of primarily Cree and English speaking people left me discriminated by the other children, so I had allegedly told my mom that I didn’t want to speak it anymore. Or so my mom says; I really don’t remember this. On a side note, I later realized that I was probably discriminated against in school because I was not only Chinese, but a geek as well. Hahaha. I suspect this because my younger brother had no major troubles in school due to his social and athletic abilities.

That said, my spoken Cantonese took a nosedive over the years until I started re-identifying with my Chinese roots in high school. I was also interested in Japanese at the same time. Add to that the French that I decided to keep up with as an elective for fun after the compulsory five years in elementary and junior high. That’s right; for fun. More on that later though.

Fast forward to today. The recent developments in China forced every citizen into speaking Mandarin at work and school, and I always thought that learning it would be useful, but I never got around to doing it because of various reasons. Until now, when I met my current girlfriend who’s from Northern China.

So I accelerated my learning through technology, but it wasn’t enough because I am still unable to communicate with her in Chinese.

Over the past few weeks, I had been following the exploits of one polyglot named Benny Lewis, who offered a language hacking guide on his website called Speak from Day One (SFDO). I watched his TEDX Talk, I watched his videos, I read his blog, and I broke down and bought his SFDO resources last night.

My adventures as a polyglot.

While reading through the language hacking guide, he went into starting a blog to keep track of your exploits, but since I already have a blog (several, actually) I decided to integrate it into my main blog. So here I am with my first post and ready to learn!

Bonus Features!

What I already know.

My language advantage is that I am already much further ahead than I thought on the road to becoming multilingual. I have a good vocabulary of Cantonese and I practice it enough at home to appear fluent; I just need more practice and vocabulary. Connecting this knowledge to Mandarin has made it made it easy to study the vocabulary since some words sound similar. I still recognize some French and I can get by with basic phrases so I’m not an absolute beginner there. Japanese is probably my biggest regret because I spent years studying it and I still cannot speak it fluently. My parents are from Malaysia, so I know a few Malay words. My mom and aunt are hooked on Korean dramas so I also recognize some Korean.

Why I like it.

I think everybody would like to learn another language if they could. But I have always shown a dedication to linguistics at a young age. In 8th grade French, we started learning how to conjugate verbs so I went to the Coles bookstore, which had just opened locally at the time, and I bought books on French verbs and idioms. I was reading up on verb conjugations for fun. Seriously, who does that? Hahaha. In high school, I was told by my French teacher that I had excellent pronunciation. I constantly scored over 90% in my French classes, more than any other class I attended in school (I scored an average of 75% in computer classes, for comparison’s sake). If I had a halfway decent school counselor, he/she would have told me that I had a future in linguistics and I wouldn’t have gone into IT. But at the same time, I wouldn’t have learned from Benny like I am now. Life does work in mysterious ways.

My target language goals.

I’m jumping the gun here, but I’ve always had a list of must-learn languages – Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean. Conquering the oriental tongues has been a dream of mine, and anything after that would have been extra. But as I started to understand myself, I recognized (with the help of Benny’s LHG) that languages are for communication and that I want to be able to communicate with anybody in their native language because I just think it’s cool and a good way to learn about other people’s cultures. There are large populations of other cultures here in town that I could potentially learn Punjabi, Portuguese, and Tagalog with full immersion sans travel/Internet. Cool, right? But I do want to travel. Doing so with fluency would be the sweet spot.