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Did you know: Ethan Choi’s journey through filmmaking

Courtesy of Ethan Choi

Courtesy of Ethan Choi

by Tiffany Wong, Aquila News Editor

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Ethan Choi (9) first began entertaining his classmates by acting in a short comedy sketch with his friends for Harker’s third grade talent show. Now putting up posters and spreading the word in preparation for the premiere of his movie “Crystal Heist 2,” a project he started earlier this year in May and continued working on through this fall, Ethan has come a long way from running around Stanford University armed only with a camera and a creative vision—albeit with some challenges along the journey.

“The night I get back from fencing in Salt Lake City and I’m video chatting with my friend, I check in with his dad and he says, ‘no, we can’t film.’ Now we have all those actors rescheduling and we’re eighth graders, so we absolutely suck at anything that has to do with planning,” he said. “I think of it as a Rubik’s cube that’s always changing—you solve it, but for every move you make, the Rubik’s cube makes another move that undoes something you did.”

“Crystal Heist 2” is the sequel to “The Crystal Heist,” a 20-minute movie Ethan began work on in December and finished in May. An “improvised movie” featuring a few of Ethan’s friends and family members, “The Crystal Heist” was screened in the middle school’s MPR shortly after its completion to an audience of over 80 students.

“I never planned on screening it at all, but I was making the trailer in my teacher Mr. Lodha’s room—I showed it to him and he was just like, ‘Wow, you should totally screen it in my room,’” Ethan said. “I was talking to Mrs. Butler and from what I told her, she knew there was going to be a much bigger audience than just the few 19, 20 kids, so she gave me the MPR to do the entire screening. By the end of it, we ended up getting almost the entire MPR filled.”

Both “The Crystal Heist” and “Crystal Heist 2” follow FBI agents Tran and Choi’s quest to thwart criminals Boss G and the Sphinx Robber and recover “the world’s most valuable diamonds.” While the first movie centers on the initial theft of the jewels, the second focuses on the Sphinx Robber and Boss G’s jailbreak and revenge.

Courtesy of Ethan Choi

Part of “The Crystal Heist” was filmed at Ethan’s grandmother’s house, where he was first inspired to write and direct his movie after bringing over a bag of props to a family gathering. Ethan cites his friends and grandmother as the reasons why he continued the Crystal Heist series with “Crystal Heist 2.”

“The whole point of making ‘Crystal Heist 2’ was to thank everyone who somehow survived the first movie and to give them something they just really deserved. I also did it for my grandmother—after fifth grade in Vietnam she had to quit school and work to sell seafood in order to help her family. She has this immense talent for cooking and opened and ran an amazing restaurant, but she broke her back. She’s been through two strokes,” Ethan said. “I thought about how she got through all that and I decided to push through. She’s coming to the premiere of ‘Crystal Heist 2,’ which I’m really excited about.”

Throughout the months of writing and directing “Crystal Heist 2,” Ethan encountered a variety of scheduling conflicts and unexpected cancellations of filming days, problems which caused Ethan to cut actors going on the Costa Rica trip in late July and early August and rearrange the dates and locations of many of his cast meetings. Though Ethan was tempted to give up and abandon the Crystal Heist series due to these issues, he ultimately decided to forge ahead with his project.

Ethan offers the following advice to students interested in writing and directing their own movies.

“Every single thing needs to be planned out to the minute, but you also need to set yourself up to be flexible to change. Anything and everything will go wrong—just be prepared for that, and you’ll be fine,” he said.

“Crystal Heist 2” will be screened this Friday from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in Nichols Auditorium. For more information about Ethan’s movies and the Crystal Heist series, visit tiny.cc/crystalheistmovies.

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Did you know: Ethan Choi’s journey through filmmaking