Reflecting on my Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio fellowship work, I realize that this project has involved a variety of new processes for me. The most important process underlying my project has been the search for media materials: specifically, films, news, and user-generated media relating to LGBTQ+ identity in China. The process of searching, reviewing, and cataloguing media was partially new to me as a filmmaker. In the past, I have mostly focused on fiction (or short-form documentaries) that are limited to specific people or stories. In contrast, my current project has a broad scope because it aims to give a concise but comprehensive exploration of LGBTQ+ media in China.
As I got deeper into my search, I discovered something about archival work that historians and other scholars must be very familiar with: the more you find, the more you want to find; the more you realize you didn’t know, the more you wonder how much else you don’t know! With that feeling, I decided to shift my July and August priorities away from rushing into a finished project and more toward a thorough, wide search. Fortunately, my search has been helped much by my (virtual) involvement with a longstanding queer film festival in Beijing. As a reviewer there during the past few months, I have had the pleasure to access many hundreds of Chinese LGBTQ+ titles that I otherwise would have no way to discover. The festival is undoubtedly the closest thing in the world to a comprehensive list of Chinese-made LGBTQ+ films produced since 2000 (including narrative, documentary, animation, experimental, and other varieties). So at a minimum, I am studying as much content there as possible to identify the noteworthy works, themes, and individuals that should be included in my final video about this topic.
Another challenge for me has been structural. Specifically, how can I sort these materials in an easily understood way? At first, I considered sorting according to identity labels (“L,” “G,” “B,” “T,” etc.), and then I considered a strict chronological organization. But in the first case, I realized I didn’t want to simply reinforce rigid ideas about identity labels. In the second case, I realized that a chronological structure was not very useful or informative and would end up being too messy to follow. So now, I have decided to group films according to genre: animation, experimental, documentary, narrative, etc.; I reached this choice because above all, my project is an exploration of creative works about Chinese LGBTQ+ identity, rather than an exploration of Chinese LGBTQ+ identity that happens to appear in art. This simple choice has made my media sorting much easier and clearer.
Finally, the most technical challenge for me has been to teach myself some highly specific tools in a post-production program called DaVinci Resolve. Putting together my video analysis, I strive for high image quality and consistency. This is a complex task when assembling a film from existing footage that varies in quality (for example because an original-generation copy is unavailable). To help streamline the diverse footage, I have learned the various techniques for visual and motion noise reduction using DaVinci. Rather than a rough one-click tool, I have learned the more specific ways of selectively removing digital noise as well as smoothing pixelation in an image. Although this process result does not boost resolution, it prevents the most jarring differences in visual quality.
With this exciting and growing project, I look forward to working with Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio beyond the summer into the future!