For the Nguyen

NASH junior Faith Nguyen recently won three prestigious national art awards for her short film “My Blood Bleed Gold”

Julia Poppa, Staff Writer

When did you start becoming interested in art & film?

Art and film are things that have been with me from a very young age. I’ve always loved to draw and paint and make art, but I don’t think I realized right away that I wanted to be a filmmaker. As a kid, I liked to make videos and write stories, but in high school, it clicked that I could marry a lot of my interests together by going into a career for film. Film was an opportunity to not only work with a visual medium; it was so much more. 

How has your art progressed since then, in terms of style and perspective?

To put it in the most annoying and clichéd way possible, I would say my film “journey” truly began at the beginning of high school. Freshman year, I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t quite yet informed about all the technical aspects of what made a film, so I wrote scripts that would have never worked, and I tried things that wouldn’t quite hit the mark. It was a lot of aimless experimentation and fear; I held back a lot because I was very unsure of myself.

In these past three years, I think I’ve learned a lot, both about my skill and myself personally, and I think that it reflects in how I approach my work. I’m less hesitant with experimentation. Instead of shying away and faltering from a challenge, I enjoy trying to work through it, whether it’s fighting through a writer’s block for a script, or dealing with a problem during a shoot that requires quick thinking. 

Nowadays, I like to try everything. Since I’ve gained somewhat of a competency in creating films, I’m using the rest of my time in high school to explore different genres and styles of film, as well as trying to become proficient in as many areas of film production as possible in order to be as employable as possible.

Faith Nguyen

When was the first time you submitted to the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition?

I first heard about the competition the summer between 8th and 9th grade from a friend. So, with not much hope or expectation, I submitted a poem entitled “Paper Stars and Folding Hands” freshman year (revised with the help of Mr. Rak, shout out to him). The piece received a National Gold Medal, to my surprise, and I got to attend the awards ceremony in New York City, which was a dream to take part in. I think the gold medal first sparked the idea that doing creative things for a career was a genuine possibility for me. Of course, my ideas for my career back then were less serious than they are now, but the spark is what mattered. 

What did you submit this year?

I submitted quite a few pieces this year, including a screenplay, poetry series, comic, photography, and short film. Only the film made it to nationals, though. 

The short film I created, entitled “My Blood Bleed Gold,” is a performance film utilizing dance and spoken word that explores the values of modern America.

What was the process for creating your film?

The idea for the film had been floating around in my head for nearly a year. “My Blood Bleed Gold” first started as a spoken word piece that I typed up without a place to share it. Then, I started imagining this campy visual of a girl dancing crazily in a hanbok (a traditional Korean dress), and getting beaten down and splattered with gold paint. So I made sketches and storyboards, and started looking for music to base the performance on. I looked at jazz because I think it’s the most American type of music there is, and it’s a sporadic and brash genre, which was the energy I wanted in my film. So once the idea really started to come together, I pitched the idea to my younger sister, who dances, and luckily she agreed to be in it. I spent the summer of 2019 researching several distinctive types of dance to incorporate into the performance, which included things like jazz steps from the 30’s/40’s and traditional Korean dance. 

It was all a matter of finding the right time to film it by the fall of 2019. When one schedule conflict came after another, I kept pushing back the date of filming, but eventually we got to film the piece later into December. We hung red sheets up in the basement & probably filmed for about five hours, and it definitely wasn’t easy because I had to juggle being a director and cameraman, as well as deal with a lot of spontaneity and improvisation with movement. It was definitely unpleasant for my sister, too, because we had to do a lot of takes, and by the end she was drenched in gold paint. She was a good sport about this project, which I appreciate greatly. I did the voiceover for the spoken word, which, if I’m being honest, I didn’t love, mostly because I hate my voice very deeply. But hey, the show must go on, right?

How do you think it compares to your work in the past?

I think this was something less definable than my other works, and what was especially different about this piece was the intention. Typically, all the films I made before were simply stories that I wanted to tell, but “My Blood Bleed Gold” didn’t exactly follow this same idea of narrative. It dealt with something that I am very passionate about: pressing issues in modern America, more specifically concerning things such as discrimination, ethnocentrism, socio-economic disparity, and problematic nationalism. This was the one of the first pieces where I used film as a tool, as a voice, to speak very blatantly about political issues, which I don’t often do.

I think that this video got where it did because it executed what it was meant to do, which I am thankful for.

Which awards did you win this year?

I received a National Gold Medal, a Best-In-Grade award, and the Civic Expression Award. 

What does it mean to you to be the recipient of these awards?

It’s a real honor to be receiving these awards, and I’m not just saying that to say it. I’m very glad that the judges saw something in my short film, because I sometimes lose sight of the positives in my work. I’m such a harsh critic of myself, so it feels good to know that someone believes in me and my work.

How do these awards affect you going forward?

I hope that these awards show promise. I hope they let future schools know that I am genuinely invested in film and that I am willing to work hard to excel and surpass expectations. 

How have art and these art competitions helped you on a personal level?

It’s like a form of therapy for me, really. I think art and film are really good, productive ways to get my energy and feelings out. I think that entering competitions in this field forces me to be more vulnerable with my work, because sharing them to be critiqued and judged takes a certain degree of courage.

Do you have any future projects in the making?

Yes, actually. I’ve just finished the screenplay for a short film entitled “Metamorphose,” and it’s about a girl whose only guardian/aunt unexpectedly passes away, and the short follows how she deals with the aftermath of her aunt’s death and the dynamic with her older sister. The family is Latinx and bilingual, and I’m actually collaborating with some Spanish-speaking peers to help translate and act in this film. It’s a really exciting project to be working on, because we’re working to put a different culture in the spotlight that strays from the stereotypical, white-American experience. I’m in the process of casting right now, and it’s set to be filmed starting in April.