Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

“Just Use This Mind” – Venerable Zen Master Miao Tsan

We recently completed a video that we were hired to do by Bright Sky Press, a Houston-based publisher of fine books for national and international trade distribution. The video explores the message of Venerable Master Miao Tsan, abbot at Vairocana Zen Monastery in Garden Grove, CA, lecturer and author of several books including his newly published, “Just Use This Mind.”

The book explores the philosophies of Zen in teaching people the concept of becoming the master of one’s own thoughts. Not just for Buddhists, the collected wisdom of Zen masters outline a way to live your life in harmony, health and happiness and embrace the concepts of the eternal.

Working on this project was a real challenge as well as a lot of fun. Having just been to China before embarking on the production aspects, I already had an ‘eastern / western’ context and intentionally wanted to stay away from doing the typical zen style. We were tasked with producing something to speak to all religions and speak in language that was accessible to all audiences, including those unfamiliar with Zen.

My writer was absolutely spot-on in articulating my thoughts and visions for the script. Choosing voice talent was more difficult in that I knew what I wanted, I could hear that voice in my head. Finding someone that had that voice was the challenge. I sampled many voice talents before finding one that I felt could capture the right tone. It took us several takes before she finally got the right voice and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

One new challenge for me was finding and working with a remote crew since the abbot is in Los Angeles, CA. Using recommendations of several people, I finally chose a cameraman, audio technician and production assistant via email, phone and web. I am used to working with my crew here in Houston and learning to communicate and manage a new crew is challenging enough without having to do it on location in a strange city. But all went well and aside from a few technical production glitches, we got some great footage and the actual shoot was at a more relaxed pace than I have ever experienced. (I guess shooting at a Zen monastery has some residual side effects on us all!)

This was also my first foray into doing an all HD (high-definition) piece so a lot of our way of doing things had to change. Our library of royalty-free footage is primarily SD (standard definition) so we had to find new resources for much of the imagery depicted in the video. Seems simple enough yet choosing just the right images and finding the right balance of image, color, tone and subject matter can be a challenge to achieve. Our first couple of drafts were more on the cheesy side but we knew what we wanted to say and eventually we found the imagery we needed. We also had to redo our production extro as that was all originally in SD and wasn’t usable in this piece. Music was spot on as well. At first our clients didn’t like a couple of the choices but then after reviewing additional selections, they came back to our original recommendations for music.

I am quite pleased with the final outcome. I think we really hit the mark with the messaging, the visuals, the tone, etc. and feel confident that this is one of our better pieces yet! I hope you’ll be motivated to purchase a copy of “Just Use This Mind” and learn more about the path of Zen to achieve a better quality life.

Master Miao Tsan will be speaking in Houston at the Boniok Center for Religious Tolerance on the campus of Rice University on November 8th at 6:15 PM. Here is a bit of information regarding the event.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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