APU Alumnus L.P. Leung Produces Lifelong Dream “The Jade Pendant”

This article originally appeared on ZU News.

For most people, getting rejected is disheartening and often a reason to give up. For L.P. Leung, it was just a hiccup on the road to achieving his dream. He spent more than 50 years on the road to making his own movie and his perseverance has finally paid off.

In the 1950s, Leung was a history major at Azusa College, before it rebranded as Azusa Pacific University. It was in one of his history classes that he discovered a story which would change his life.

In “American History of the West,” Leung read about an event called the Chinese Massacre of 1871. He had never heard of it before and wanted to find out more, but his textbook offered little information.

“It [was] just like one paragraph, no details in there. I thought it [was] kind of interesting. I wanted to find out more,” Leung said. “I went to the library and found nothing, so I could not do the term paper that I wanted to do on this particular issue.”

The topic sparked Leung’s curiosity, but he set it aside for a few years. He then attended the University of Southern California (USC) for graduate school, earning a master’s degree in accounting.

Leung didn’t know what jobs he could get with a history degree but decided he could easily find a job in accounting. The degree change worked well for him, as he spent the next 30 years working as an accountant. However, his curiosity about the Chinese massacre was not sated.

“In my free time, I went to the LA City Library to do some more research, to see if I could get some information back [from the massacre] in 1871. I found some microfiche [old newspaper clips] mentioning about the massacre,” Leung said.

Unfortunately, the only information the microfiche provided him with was the death toll of the massacre. Leung was not deterred. He kept researching. He decided to look more into Chinese immigrant life in Los Angeles in the 1870s. He read and read, finding as much information out as he could.

Leung worked for Paramount Pictures after he graduated from USC. He became enamored with the idea of making a movie about the massacre. He discussed the possibility of the movie with a producer he worked with who told him Americans were not ready for it at the time. So Leung set it aside again, until he retired more than three decades later.

In 2012, Leung was retired and bored. He needed something to do and he thought back to the story from all those years earlier. He decided to follow through with making the movie.

Leung, who is originally from Hong Kong, called an old friend who still lived there and was in the movie business. Leung’s friend told him to come to Hong Kong so they could further discuss Leung’s idea. So Leung prepared an excerpt of the story.

“I went to Hong Kong with the treatment and then he spent five minutes with me because he was so busy,” Leung said. “He said, ‘Well LP, your treatment is not good enough. You may as well write a book because that way [it’s] easier to sell to producers.’ So I came back home and I started the writing.”

The writing process proved to be challenging for Leung as Cantonese is his first language. He wrote while his wife edited his work. In 2013, the book was published, entitled “The Jade Pendant.”

After the book was published, Leung flew back to Hong Kong to see his friend again. Although his friend was unable to help him, Leung met a woman on the flight who was interested in his movie idea and wanted to help.  Her husband had just acted in a movie and he said he might know a screenwriter who could help.

Leung found the screenwriter and showed him his book. The screenwriter loved it and agreed to write the screenplay for him. This process took about a year, while they took the screenplay around to several producers, but no one was interested in it.

“Not a whole lot of love,” Leung said. “No love, in fact, to try and get people to produce it.”

Leung was dejected, but did not relent. He went back to Hong Kong to meet with another writer.

“I gave him the book and told him the story. I said if you can do it, I’d like to have this movie done in one year because I’m not a young chick anymore. At that time I was 77 years old,” Leung said.

The writer thought on it for a few weeks and then emailed Leung that he would do it. Together, they found a producer and a director and began making the movie.

“We started shooting in the end of September and we finished shooting in the beginning of November,” Leung said. “It took another year and a half for the movie for all the dumping [editing] and the subtitling before it was ready in 2017.”

The movie was finished in 2017, but only now, in February 2019, will it play on the big screen. Leung worked with Michael Gregory, the chair of APU’s Department of Cinematic Arts, and other administrators at APU to get the movie booked at Foothill Cinema Stadium 10, right across the street from APU. “The Jade Pendant” will be shown from Feb. 15-21 with three showtimes a day. Tickets can be purchased here.

[caption id="attachment_17249" align="alignright" width="1028"] The movie poster of "Jade Pendant." The movie will be shown from Feb. 15-21 with three showtimes a day at Foothill Cinema Stadium.[/caption]

“I’m so happy because I got the support of APU,” Leung said.

Leung hopes many APU students will attend. He is working with the theater to bring the ticket prices down to $5 for APU students, to give them the opportunity to learn about this unknown part of local history.

“I consider that a part of history that our schools do not want to tell because it is not a good story to tell,” Leung said. “I just want to make it an entertaining movie, at the same time being informative.”

Leung also hopes students will learn from his personal story and understand that being rejected a few times is not the end.

“One thing I hope they learn is that if you persevere, work hard, you can reach your goals in a lot of things that you can think of,” Leung said. “Perseverance helped me to go through this to write the book and the movie. If you have a goal, go ahead and do it. Pursue it. Don’t give up.”

"The Crucible" Opens Feb. 15, Giving A Timely Message

This article was originally published in ZU News.

Azusa Pacific’s rendition of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible opens Feb. 15 and will run through Feb. 25 in the Warehouse Theater. This classic play focuses on a town transformed by accusations of witchcraft in the 17th century.

Even though the play is over 60 years old and is set over three centuries ago, director Oanh Nguyen thinks the message is just as appropriate as ever.

“I believe even Miller would be surprised how The Crucible has only become more timely. Whether you follow the themes of fear, hysteria and scapegoating or connect to the themes of overcoming personal demons and humiliations, there is something here for everyone,” Nguyen said. “Our goal as a company has been to be as truthful to these characters as possible. Present them as human beings and leave the judgement to the audience.”

One of the leading characters in The Crucible, Abigail Williams, is played by senior acting major Dawn Williams.

“I was nervous that it was going to be a lot more tolling on me than it has been. I’ve been in heavier shows before and I’ve played evil characters and I’ve been exhausted by it, because I feel like I’m a nice person,” Williams said. “But this show is all in the text. Everything that you’re supposed to feel is really easy to feel because of the way the town and characters are set up. It’s all been easy because it’s authentic.”

This is Williams’ seventh and final play at APU.

“I wasn’t sure that I would get cast this semester. I thought last semester might be my last show as Lucinda in Into the Woods. The last line that I get to say in this show is ‘Praise God.’ That’s a great line to end on,” Williams said. “Although people will hate my character, I’m hoping that they will also love her for the struggle and the journey she goes through.”

Like Nguyen, Williams said that she feels the message of The Crucible is still relevant.

“The story lends itself to some profound issues, especially in a society that’s dealing with issues in social media. It touches on the risks of deception. We want to be a truthful culture, but so much of our news and media is lies. The world today is seeking truth and looking for places to find it,” Williams said. “This play is the downfall of humanity in their seek for truth. Abigail knows she doesn’t need to do much to turn the town upside down because she knows the town wants the truth and turns the lies into truth.”

One of the other leading actors in the show is sophomore acting major Sam Bixby. Bixby said he was excited to play a dynamic character.

“When I first got cast, I was very excited because I got cast as Reverend John Hale. He’s a minister in a town called Beverly. He comes in as this kick-butt kind of guy in all matters of demonic arts. He’s very religious,” Bixby said. “A lot of literary journals say that Hale experiences the most change over the course of the show, and I agree. Over the course of the four acts, he gets pummeled into the ground.”

Bixby said this play was more work than when he was in Into the Woods because the rehearsal time was limited.

“We started our first rehearsal on Jan. 6, so we’ve really had a short rehearsal time, especially for Arthur Miller who is arguably one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century and this is one of his meatiest plays. So to do that in a month and a half was a challenge to say the least,” Bixby said. “One of the most useful parts of rehearsal is living in a character. You start to think like the character and your characteristics become that of the character during rehearsal.”

Nguyen said that the limited rehearsal time has created challenges but the crew has adapted.

“Due to the limited rehearsal time and the length of the play, we asked the cast to learn their lines before rehearsals began,” Nguyen said. “That is a difficult task but the cast was more than up to [it].”

Nguyen said he has enjoyed working with the students on The Crucible.

“I tend to work on musicals or new plays, so it’s been fun to work on an American Classic,” Nguyen said. “It’s been a joy to work on Miller’s words and rummage around in this detailed, complicated and emotional world that he has created.”

The show runs Feb. 15-25, with Thursday through Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday performances at 2 p.m. in the Warehouse Theater on West Campus.

Hungry Coug App Makes Managing Dining Points A Breeze

This article was originally published in ZU News.

APU students have always had the freedom to spend dining points across campus, but tracking how many points you have has always been a struggle. That is until Kyle Nakamura and Montrell Thigpen created the Hungry Coug app on Feb. 7.

The Hungry Coug app allows you to track the amount of dining points you have, alongside how many you should have for any dining plan. This means that you no longer have to guess if you have enough points, nor worry about spending too much, because the app tells you if you are over or under.

Hungry Coug is available on the App Store (iOS) and the Google Play Store (Android) for free. It has 831 downloads as of March 3. It only takes a couple minutes to install and set up, just logging in with your APU email and password.

“I think that the Hungry Coug app is very useful,” Garrett Davis said, a freshmen Christian Ministries major. “There was no way for me to keep track before the app.”

Davis said that he’s been cutting back on how many dining points he’s been spending, thanks to the app.

As well as tracking how many dining points you have, it has the dining hours of all restaurants on campus. This means you never have to walk to Mexicali at 9 p.m. only to find out it’s closed, just conveniently pull it up on your phone.

The last feature is a menu for each dining venue. It just takes a second to pull up and it has all the nutrition information for your food.

“I’d give it a solid four stars out of five,” Davis said.

Nakamura, a junior computer science major, started working on the app in April 2016.

“I spent my entire summer vacation learning Apple’s new programming language, Swift, adding new features to Hungry Coug as I learned,” Nakamura said. “I spent a long time deciding on what icons to use for the restaurants and designing the user interface on my own, which was difficult since I have no formal background in graphics and UX design.”

He designed the entire app for iOS by himself; however, he turned to a friend, Montrell Thigpen, to create the same app for Android. Thigpen, also a junior computer science major, had more experience with Android apps.

“He created the entire Android app based on my design, and we have been building the app together for the past month,” Nakamura said.

With no previous experience in app design whatsoever before starting Hungry Coug, Nakamura learned from an online design course called Udemy.

“Hungry Coug started as a way for me to practice my programming skills since this was my first iPhone app at the time,” Nakamura said. “I was motivated to create this app because of my frustration with the existing system for tracking my Dining Points and the process of checking how many points I was supposed to have in order to stay on track.

“Before Hungry Coug, I had to refer to an excel spreadsheet every day to see how many dining points I should have at any given time. My app updates and calculates everything automatically; no more spreadsheets, no more log-in screens.”

There was a brief problem between Nakamura and Thigpen with IMT, but it has since been resolved. They are now working closely with IMT to make sure the app is secure for all students.

“Feedback has been generally great. Students love it. Teachers love it. Hungry Coug is one of the hottest things on campus,” Thigpen said. “I think the best email we’ve gotten was from Shino Simmons, the Associate Dean of Students at APU, who congratulated our efforts and encouraged a partnership between Jefferey Birch (Chief Technology Officer) and James Jenson (head of IMT) on making Hungry Coug secure, fast, and reliable.”

Thigpen has previous experience in app design. He has made two other apps for Androids, including one that made it to the semifinal of Zuventures. He notes how this time was different.

“It’s really great to be working along side a real engineer. I’m excited for the future of Hungry Coug and other projects. I really hope this can illuminate the growing computer science program and its awesome instructors,” Thigpen said.

Vine App Discontinued By Twitter Incites Negative Responses From Users

This article originally appeared in ZU News.

On Oct. 27, the founders of the smartphone app, Vine, announced they would discontinue it within the next few months. This came in a Twitter announcement with no prior warning.

Vine is an app that debuted in 2012 after Twitter bought it for $30 million. Its premise was simple: to make a six-second video that played on an endless loop. Not many people had heard of it when it started, but it quickly gathered millions of users and viewers- according to an article by tech company The Verge.

Like many other social media apps today, Vine appealed to young people more than any other age group. From infamous videos like “Damn Daniel… back at it again with the white Vans” to “It is Wednesday, my dudes (insert terrible laugh),” teenagers fueled the Vine frenzy.

One avid Vine user was APU freshman computer science major Jonathan Davis. Although Davis only ever created and shared three vines on the app, he spent countless hours on it for fun.

“I think it’s very dumb. Vine is one of the single greatest things that was created,” Davis said. “It’s not a smart move on them. It’s very sad.”

Freshman psychology major Hailey Frey also lamented the change.

“I love Vine and I’m very sad Twitter decided to get rid of it,” said Frey. “I will really miss posting my daily vines. Vine made my life better.”

No longer will kids get to turn something embarrassing their friends said or did into an infinite six-second loop of humor. No longer will society be able to sit and watch Channing Tatum say “My name Jeff” over and over without having to rewind the clip at all. No longer will anyone be able to share a simple six-second video that brightened the day with a friend who’s also had a hard week.

“I’ll be missing everything. Vine is like half of Twitter, and the other half of Twitter is basically irrelevant. Without Vine, there’s nothing really to look forward to,” Davis said.

Others, however, believe Twitter made the correct choice in letting go of an app that can no longer keep up.

“I think Twitter is right in dissolving Vine. It can’t compete with Snapchat and Instagram,” said Deborah Revenaugh, a freshman psychology major. “The concept was good, but it didn’t have anything to make it essential.”

Vine is being discontinued for a variety of reasons, though mainly because of the fact that it never really profited Twitter. Vine never advertised and the founders were against monetization. Unlike Twitter, it didn’t offer paid accounts or videos. The company also lost its original founders, creative director and another CEO in the past two years, according to The Verge.

For now, users of Vine will still be able to view and upload videos in the next couple of months.

In the Twitter announcement released on the website Medium, Twitter revealed “nothing is happening to the apps, website or your Vines today. We value you, your Vines and are going to do this the right way. You’ll be able to access and download your Vines. We’ll be keeping the website online because we think it’s important to still be able to watch all the incredible Vines that have been made. You will be notified before we make any changes to the app or website.”

Twitter did not share in the announcement a hard date for when Vine would be officially shut down.

So for people who spent hours on Vine instead of doing homework or stayed up a few extra minutes to watch “Damn Daniel” a couple more times, don’t worry too much; it’s not over just yet.

"The Magnificent Seven" Is A Great Modern Western, But Not Quite Magnificent

This article originally appeared in ZU News.

Although Westerns have faded out of the box office, every few years a movie like “The Magnificent Seven” comes along to show that movies don’t have to be filled with special effects to be successful.

“The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of the 1960 classic with the same title. The characters, plot and setting were adapted but the premise remained the same: seven cowboys unite against an army to save a town.

The modern adaptation of the original screenplay was written by Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto. It was directed by Antoine Fuqua and starred Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke.

Set in the late 1800’s in a small mining town, “The Magnificent Seven” has a simple plot supported by strong characters. The villain Bartholomew Boque storms into town and demands for everyone to leave, offering them the choice of a fraction of what their property is worth or their deaths. He kills the only man who tries to stand up to him.

This man’s wife is brokenhearted and travels to a nearby town to find a bounty hunter. There she meets Sam Chisolm, played by Washington, a police officer who hunts down criminals. She convinces him to help her by offering him all the money she has.

Chisolm agrees and quickly recruits Josh Faraday, a man who can seemingly either talk or shoot his way out of any situation. They set off recruiting five more along the way— a legendary confederate general, a “redskin” bounty hunter, a Mexican outlaw, a Chinese knife thrower and a Native American rebel.

The seven return to the town where the woman is from. They take out the sheriff and his officers that have been bought by Boque. The town rejoices but many of them flee in order to avoid the real battle. Those that stay are mere farmers and the seven have a comically hard time trying to teach them to defend themselves.

As the climax approaches, each character is revealed with their own unique backstory. When the day comes, it’s an army of hundreds armed with a Gatling gun against a few dozen farmers and “The Magnificent Seven.”

Although it didn’t have a high production value, “The Magnificent Seven” was a great movie that bridged the decades of classic westerns with modern characters and audiences. It had a budget of $90,000,000 and made $34,703,397 the opening weekend in box office sales.

This is a movie to see on a date or with the family, although it is rated PG-13 for violence and some language. Perhaps the best western since “True Grit,” “The Magnificent Seven” is a must see for anyone who likes old style movies like “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” or any number of classic westerns with John Wayne.

Overall, I give “The Magnificent Seven” three out of four John Wallace heads. Through the strong characters played by Washington and Pratt, it is a great modern western, but not quite magnificent. For that, it would need a stronger plot and to be more like the original film. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys westerns or classical films.