Creating Our “One Billion Rising” Video and the Power of Saying YES…by Tiffany Tang

Photo by Elsa Mickelsen

Photo by Elsa Mickelsen

“I have an idea.”

Carla Nell, co-producer of San Diego’s One Billion Rising campaign, said this to me on the phone one afternoon in late November. A few days earlier, I had forwarded her a copy of Maynard Dean Wade’s recently completed song, “One Billion Rising,” inspired by the productions of The Vagina Monologues and The MENding Monologues which he had seen in San Diego earlier in 2012. Maynard, a musician, had been slowly compiling an album to be called On the Mend, of which this song would be a part.

“I think we need a music video,” said Carla. “I think we need something that will feature our awesome V-Day team. I think we need Maynard’s song.”

A page from Maynard's story board

A page from Maynard’s story board

Days later, just before Thanksgiving, Kym Pappas, also co-producing One Billion Rising in San Diego, joined a phone conversation with Carla, Maynard, and myself. Coincidentally, Maynard is a filmmaker and an editor, and upon hearing that San Diego was interested in using his song, he immediately produced 27 storyboards detailing seven story lines that would interweave to complete the picture of the song.

The vision was daunting. It would require a lot of time, a lot of help, and mostly a lot of people. And, of course, if we wanted to get it done in time to promote the event, it would have to be completed soon. We all looked at the calendar. Thanksgiving, holiday shopping, travel plans…would it even be possible? Deep breath. Go.

Maynard directs on Day OnePhoto by Elsa Mickelsen

Maynard directs on Day One
Photo by Elsa Mickelsen

Thanksgiving happened, and then we started seriously planning the shoot. Where to film? Would we need permits? How would we take care of expenses? What was the best way to rally people? I started driving around San Diego and finding locations, sending them to Maynard, who lives in Long Beach, via phone. We needed ten places. Thankfully, San Diego is amazingly beautiful so we had plenty to choose from. It would just be a matter of deciding which locations communicated the vision best.

Next, it was time to rally the people. We set the shoot dates starting the weekend of December 8 and I began posting in our facebook group and creating events detailing who was needed when. It was a little overwhelming: 20 people needed for this shot, 14 people for this shot, bring your “Over It” t-shirts, does anyone have votive candles?, who does yoga??, and on and on.

There was dancing!

Lena Jones dances it out.
Photo by Elsa Mickelsen

Also, there was one teensy, tiny little detail to be addressed. Minor, really. Um – what are we going to use to film this thing?

We had one or two people with cameras we could use but there were battery life issues and some other technical difficulties. That’s when I wrote an email to George Ye, a local acting professor and San Diego 48 Hour Film Project Rock Star. It went something like this: “Hi, George. Happy holidays. Hey, by any chance do you want to help us film a little thing for One Billion Rising on Saturday?” His response, immediate, was: “Great cause. Count me in.” Tears may or may not have come to my eyes upon reading that.

Not only did George show up, but he put the word out to his cohorts and before we knew it, the awesome Mickelsen gang at Bad Cat Films was on board, as well as local film guy Norm MacKinnon.

Stephen Mickelsen, Peter Mickelsen, George Ye, Elsa Mickelsen, Norm MacKinnon

Stephen Mickelsen, Peter Mickelsen, George Ye, Elsa Mickelsen, Norm MacKinnon

Just to put this into perspective: Maynard and I were wondering if we were going to shoot this on our iPhones. A day later, we were having a conversation with DP Stephen Mickelsen who said, and I quote, “We usually only work with small indie films in San Diego. So, for instance, our crane is only 12 feet instead of 20 and our dolly track is only 40 feet long instead of 80. Hope that’s okay.” Our response to that was, of course: “Um… crane?”

It was unbelievable. In just a few weeks, we went from vision to total reality. I continued to gather volunteers together, encouraging them to bring friends. My mother informed me that she would drive down from Temecula (an hour north) to be a part of the shoot. I won’t say that we didn’t have our hurdles and setbacks…we definitely did. I may or may not have had a nervous breakdown at some point during this planning process.

Campaign manager Becca Noland shows up to the shoot with Anne Hathaway

Campaign manager Becca Noland shows up to the shoot with Anne Hathaway

It was about this time that “Break the Chain” was released on Wow. Talk about a kick starter. We saw that video and we were so inspired, especially upon reading that it was filmed flashmob style in a park. From that moment, we adopted the word “flashmob” into our lingo and moved forward with renewed energy, confident that not everything had to be perfectly planned in order for it to be successful. This would happen. We just needed people to show up and say, “YES.”

Filming Jewell Karinen at Paul Savage Photography

Filming Jewell Karinen at Paul Savage Photography
Photo by Kym Pappas

That first weekend, we filmed in six locations, with over 50 people showing up to help out. We had candles. We had yogis. We had dancing. We had cameras and dollies and CRANES. We had One Billion Rising t-shirts and a great song playing on a boom box all over San Diego for 48 hours straight. We had camaraderie and smiles and “let’s try this” and “what do you think?” and “that’s a great idea.” We had people asking about One Billion Rising as we tromped through Downtown San Diego in our t-shirts. We had passers-by ask to take pictures with Maynard because he looked like a super famous rock star. (Premonition, maybe?) We had playing the guitar in the middle of the street to catch the iconic “The Boulevard” sign. We had little Lulu, who was literally in utero when her mom, Desiree, did her first production of The Vagina Monologues. We had butterfly tattoos which would eventually come to life. We had homemade cheese and Paul Savage Photography! We had early mornings and late nights and people literally putting their lives on hold for days in order to see this project to its completion. It was utterly amazing.

Cristyn Chandler leads our yoga shoot

Cristyn Chandler leads our yoga shoot
George Ye checks the light
Photo by Elsa Mickelsen

At the end of it, we had filmed for four days. Editing would take another week. Polishing would take another week after that. When Carla and Kym viewed the finished product, we all had a good cry together. “It was better than I could have hoped,” was Carla’s response and, more importantly, “It represents so many people who have been a part of this V-Day family for over a decade.”

This project represents something about V-Day and especially about One Billion Rising that has continued to amaze and astonish: the power of saying YES despite overwhelming odds. Eve Ensler has never wavered in her conviction to end violence, and despite whatever logical excuses one could offer up to counter her ambitious vision, her passion and her energy have continued to inspire…well, a billion. And now, that billion is rising.

Cut. Print. Wrap.

Tiffany and mom, JudyPhoto by Jeff Sanchez

Tiffany and mom, Judy
Photo by Jeff Sanchez

Tiffany Tang is a writer, actor and activist who performed in The Vagina Monologues for the first time in 2012. She is currently on the Communications Committee for One Billion Rising San Diego and will be dancing on February 14, 2013.

(Available on iTunes)

music and lyrics by Maynard Dean Wade

When tears fall from the sky
The sun is standing by
I hold a loving hand
We gonna make it happen today

Hey, come rain or shine
Hey, come love divine
One billion voices strong
Stand up we’ve got something to say

A brand new devotion
You can see the cares washing away
The pulse of emotion
Billion butterflies calling your name

You look high
I look low
See the choirs of people move
Some come soft
Some come slow
But the world falls into our groove

You can feel love coming to life
One rising nation
Blood-red human valentine

It will flow like a river
There will be no compromising
Love will deliver
They’ll be One Billion Rising

I see you walking down the street and I
Feel like I’m gonna take little ride
On the wings of angels and I can’t deny
I’m gonna fly

A brand new devotion
She’s no longer on her knees today
The pulse of emotion
And the power line shifting her way

It will flow like a river
There will be no compromising
Love will deliver
They’ll be One Billion Rising

We’re mending our lives
She’s come up from the ground
Mother, lover – no longer hide
We’re over it now.
Over it

A brand new devotion
You can feel your cares lifting today
The pulse of emotion
Billion fireflies lighting the way

It will flow like a river
There will be no compromising
Love will deliver
They’ll be One Billion Rising

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4 Responses to Creating Our “One Billion Rising” Video and the Power of Saying YES…by Tiffany Tang

  1. Suzanne W. says:

    The video ROCKS!!! And George Ye is a great guy! Congrats to all involved 🙂

  2. Vera Flame says:

    Bravo! What an inspiration! Kudos to you all for this powerful, impactful, and relevent piece of work.

  3. m.e. says:

    where can I find the lyrics to Maynard’s wonderful song? thanks!
    another one rising in tennessee…

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