Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Judy Chien

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Judy Chien
Interviewer: Franzeska Dickson
Interviewee: Judy Chien
Date(s): May 27, 2012
Medium: audio recording
Fandom(s): vidding
External Links:
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In 2012, Judy Chien was interviewed at MediaWest as part of the Media Fandom Oral History Project.

Length: 43:50:00.

For more information about the origins of this interview, where it is housed, contact information, suggestions regarding future interviewee candidates, and how to become volunteer interviewer, see the Media Fandom Oral History Project page.

Some Topics Discussed

  • beginning of Wiseguy fandom
  • details about her individual vids
  • ending up at her first MediaWest by accident
  • ending up at the end of a vid show that was all about one pairing
  • skipping the stop watch
  • the influence of Mary Van Deusen
  • feral vidding

Excerpts

[the beginning of Wiseguy fandom]:
Well, the beginning of Wiseguy fandom, as supported by me, was, me. So, as a result, there really wasn't any. I was into to it before there was any – well, years before anyone else got in to it. I mean, I didn't do it the first year; I watched the show, and I thought, "This is fantastic!" And this is actually what impelled me to vid for the first time. I just, you know, just spent two weeks, with two VCRs, and an audio tape player, and did, what's the name of that song? Ah, it's by – this is my problem; I don't remember the names of any of my vids. [laughter] But it was The vid about Vinnie and Sonny, and – "In the Eye"! "In the Eye", by, ok, forget it. I don't know any of the names... But, any any rate, "In the Eye" was the first fanvid I ever made. It was – this is why people, then, only did vids if they were crazy- obsessed with the show, because the amount of detailed work that took. You know, it would take me sometimes six hours to get one cut right. But the thing is, because of the way you did vids then, where you had to add on to the same tape all the time, you couldn't go back, which meant that you, if you did anything wrong, you had to redo it from the start. So, this is why the audio tape on the song stretched, and therefore, when people tried to reconstitute it with digital media, it didn't work. Because the song, as I did it, is not the same speed as the song that it actually is.
[her early vids felt and looked very modern]:
People have told me that. Well, and once again, well, once again because I have been talking to her earlier, I don't like to say, "Oh, my vids were really good!", but I mean, they were, actually, I thought, pretty good. I mean, I was very much of a stickler for timing. And making sure that every scene meant something, both visually and, in, contextually. I mean, there isn't a scene in either of those vids that didn't have both a meaning you could get without seeing the show, and a meaning that came from seeing the show. Now, whether I was clear about some of this stuff is another matter entirely. But in my head, it made sense both ways, so, so that's actually one of the reasons I'm an extremely non-prolific vidder. Also, I kind of find that when I made a vid, then that is what I had to say about that storyline.
[when did I start vidding?]:
I think...um, 1989 was the first vid I made, which was "In the Eye". I was, I had some friends, hopefully still have them [laughter] in Philadelphia, where I lived at the time, the "Bunnies from Hell", whom I guess I will not mention their names, because I have no idea whether they would want to be in there or not. I'll mention their first names, otherwise it will be very confusing...."This woman, and then this woman, and then that other woman." But Patricia had been making videos herself, never to show, but, you know, or had worked on them. And she wanted, had, oh, I think about four that she wanted to show, and I can't remember what any of them were, so, I'm a bad friend.... [people might see it in a hundred years and and think it was] possibly attributed to me, yeah. [laughter] But they weren't mine. It was just "In the Eye". But at any rate, she had a couple vids, whatever, and I said, see, this vid, that's the only vid I that was not made specifically to be shown at MediaWest because I'm lazy, and need a deadline to motivate me. But this vid, "In the Eye", just in the middle of nowhere, right, like, several months after the arc, the Sonny arc, was over. I was just like, I heard this song, and I was like, I could totally see visually how that would work out. I mean, the whole end scene and they repeat, "in the eye", and they're looking at each other in the eye. And I thought, "I can totally do this," and took two solid weeks, virtually ignoring my schoolwork and everything. I was in grad school at the time [laughter]. And, ah, you know, and then I was very happy with it. And I had no one to show it to. [laughter] I mean, I did have a friend, Camille, Camille Bacon-Smith, who will probably not mind having her name on here [laughter], you know, she also liked Wiseguy, in fact, she's the person who told me I should watch the show. So, I showed it to her, and she thought it was great, because, it was it. It was all of Wiseguy fandom, that video. It was the only thing that had ever been produced. So, and actually, I took it to, I think, Weekend in the Country, I think it was Weekend in the Country, which was, I think, a slash con, but it was a con, and it was, you know, nearby. It was in Baltimore, which is where I later moved to, but at that time I was still in Philadelphia, but it was close. And, ah, no, can't have been a slash con, because the person I'm going about to talk to was not a slash fan. But somebody who was in to Cannell shows. I don't know if I should say her name. Elizabeth. She wrote a Remington Steele thing, and some other Cannell fiction. And I heard that she liked Cannell shows, and we'd talked about Cannell shows, and she said, "Oh, I like Wiseguy," and I said, "I am going to show you this video." So we took her up to the room, and I'm like, "You are the first fan that I don't know that I have shown this to," and I showed it to her, and after it was over she just gave me a slow clap and said, "That the best thing I ever saw!" which is of course, because she's in to Wiseguy, of course, at that point, it was the best thing she'd ever saw, because when you are in to something, it's way better than it actually is.
[ended up at MediaWest by way of default transportation]:
The first MediaWest I'd been to was '87, which was an accident, because I was, some friends of mine were going to see Gareth Thomas, start of Blake's 7, in some Shakespeare plays in Toronto. And, well, actually, they weren't friends of mine. They were total strangers, but a friend of mine told me that they were doing this, and I said, that would be neat. I was in to Blake's 7 at the time, I was originally a Dr Who fan, and I'd like to see Shakespeare plays, and they said, "Yeah, then we're also going to MediaWest afterwards," which I'd never heard of, and I said - "Guess I'll do that too, 'cause I'll be in the car with you." So, um, and then when I came to MediaWest, it was like, you know, Disneyland for fans. You know, at that point, every door decorated, ah, everybody so welcoming, people talking about things I was interested in, and saw my first big music video. That's actually why I knew what music videos were. I actually went to a music video panel, people telling you how to make them, and they told me all this technical detail which meant nothing to me, because my machine was nothing like theirs. And I never used any of their technical information, but they gave some stylistic advice, which I kept in mind, and ignored. But I would keep it in mind and knew I was ignoring it. Which was, things like, because they were making very much for their audience. I mean, they were trying to please people, whereas I am selfish, and was only interested in what I wanted to see. They would say, "You want to make it accessible to the audience by either making the song familiar, or the fandom familiar, but if you do both, then it's too run-of-the-mill. You know, try and make an unfamiliar song; you know, try and do something unexpected." Which then I immediately did: Wiseguy, a fandom nobody had ever seen, and "In the Eye", by Suzanne Vega, a song which nobody had ever heard of. [laughter]
[vids as early pimping]:
I did get positive feedback the first year. Because those people who had seen Wiseguy, you know, were all excited because it was the only thing. And there were a lot of people who came to me and said "I've never the show," but they wanted to see the show after they'd seen the vid. And that was really something that people may not be aware of now, that vids used to be gateways, you know, they used to be drugs to get you into the fandom. You know, you'd show the vid; people would be, "That looks like an interesting show," and then they would watch the show....it used to be a way to get people to say, "That looks interesting." And you would try – I mean, I wasn't consciously trying to do that with "In the Eye", it was just, I have to do this, because this would be perfect. And as I said, it was the only one I did without a deadline. Because, as time went on, I became more and more lazy, and the last, I think, three or four vids I did were finished at MediaWest. And the last one was finished after the deadline for the vid show. [laughter] So -
[on variety]:
Patricia and Ann at that point were really into Voyager, and had made an hour of Voyager bid vids. And their main thing that they were interested in was Paris and B'Elanna, so there was an hour of vids about Paris and B'Elanna. And, you know, that's fine; I just felt that, for a vid show, that there should be a little bit of variety. This is something actually that California Crew told me, that I apparently still remembered, from their first vid panel that I went to. That there should be a variety of tone, of fast/slow, ballad/funny, you know, just to keep the audience interested. And I was like, ok, well, all right. If I manage to finish the Mystery Science Theater 3000 vid at the con, there will be, we can have half an hour of Paris and B'Elanna, then my vid, then another half hour of Paris and B'Elanna. It would be better if we could like divide it into thirds. So I had made a One Life to Live video, which I didn't show to anybody because I didn't think anybody would be interested in it. And it was also an experiment because I was like, "Let's see what would happen if I took a song that I didn't understand the words to and sort of randomly made a vid with a story that was unrelated to what they were singing." It was "Caribbean Blue," by Enya. Yeah, Enya, where, I don't know what she was singing.
[being stuck at the end of an hour long Paris/Torres show]:
So I thought, can I even do this? And I really liked it, but, of course, nobody watched One Life to Live in fandom that I knew, so I was like, "I'm really happy with this!" and then I got there and I'm like – But for here, I thought, if we did twenty minutes of Paris and B'Elanna, then Mystery Science Theater MST3K, then twenty minutes, and then One Life to Live, at least there would be different.... And of course then when they put them all together they did an hour of Paris and B'Elanna and put my two at the end....So it was like, oh well, that's the only reason that one's out in the public.... Yeah, well, I guess it must have been Patricia who just put them at the end. Well, it was probably easier.
[she skipped the stop watch]:
I never did the stop watch; I did counting in my head, because I would, my eyes would be glued to the screen and I would be like, you know, just basically I would know. And I would just see if the result looked like what I wanted it to look like. And if it didn't, then I would just redo it. So, because I was very persnickety. I mean, now, I look at how apparently simpler it is to do vids now, and I'm like, if I had the access, I think I could. But I wonder if part of it is, it was a big challenge to do it, and now maybe it's not so much. So it doesn't impel me. I don't know. Who knows what lurks in my brain, my mind. But -
[flattery dulls the pain]:
[Praise is] flattering, you know, and I actually, I don't know that I can say that I enjoyed the process, but I enjoyed the feeling after the process had ended. [laughter] You know, it was like, I was like impelled, you know, like a compulsion to do it, and then afterwards, and it was done, then I was, well, actually for a while I'd have the, "this is totally not what I wanted." And then I'd look back on it later, and be like, "yeah, that was pretty good." You know. But immediately afterwards you're like, "This, is, you know, that scene in there?" and I'd point it out to Jean, "That really should have been like a quarter of a second faster." And. Like, nobody else could tell, because nobody else knew what I had seen in my head.
[song choice and impact]:
To me, it's very important that the song fits stylistically the show. And I mean, if I'm only going to make one vid for each storyline, I want the song to be, to fit in all ways. And because I'm extremely, extremely picky, basically, because, I mean, so many vids I've seen, never in a million years would they occur to me, and I love them. You know, that other people have made. But they're just, completely not the way my mind works. You know, I would not have picked this song which to me does not evoke the show at all, and yet I love their vid, because, you know, it's alternate universe. But it’s just for some reason my mind is very, very straight line. Well, I mean, literal, basically.
[Mary Van Deusen]:
Mary Van Deusen, who was a big, famous, important vidder on the East Coast, she used to, she was very generous with her time with people who were interested in vids and she would, you know, tell them about how to make vids, and sometimes have like little tutorials in her room at cons. And she invited me up to her house for one weekend, to see how she made a vid, and actually I'm credited on that vid. Although you know she totally made it, and I said, "Maybe that scene?"...She was very generous with her time and expertise. Cause I would say, because now there are all these theories of mentoring. If anybody was my mentor, she was my mentor. Of course it was mostly long distance, you know.

[snipped]

The thing is, with Mary Van Deusen, I mean, I did, the thing is, she's the first person whose vids I saw that I really wanted to be more like those vids than other vids. Because, I don't want to, how do I say this without insulting the vast quantities of vidders out there - it's just that her sensibility as to timing was much closer to mine. Than a lot of peoples'. As I said, I already said the whole direct to words. That was not necessarily common at the time. I mean, people tried, but it was very hard to make short cuts.

[snipped]

When people talk about mentoring, I mean, I think now, there's a lot more hands-on, constant communication. I mean, I did go up to her house for a weekend, and saw her make a vid, and she, you know, went through things with me and the other person, ah, Caren Parnes was the girl who was there at the time. But it's not like we constantly communicated about that. Then I kind of did things on my own without any input from her. I mean, I actually, I'm not sure if I did my first vid before or after I did that with Mary. You know, because, of course, what she was doing was so foreign technically from what I was doing. And because I had two VCRs and a tape deck. And she had, you know, professional editing equipment ...