Measuring Happiness- A Documentary

Hi Everyone!!!

I am so so excited to share my capstone project and site with you all!

When I was trying to decide what kind of project to do for my capstone, I knew I wanted to do something with film because I love making short videos. This whole process was very daunting to me because I had never made a video over 8 minutes long (and that 8 minute video was the first video I ever made- aka not very good), never took any film/editing courses, and did not have any other film related capstone projects to model after. I was exploring a completely new space for myself, and the Minor in Writing.

After a full semester of stress and running around with film equipment, editing, crying because I thought my documentary was going to be boring, and watching footage over and over until I could practically recite what my interviewees are saying– I am proud to say that I have gotten 15 interviews of over 3 hours and 30 minutes of footage, into a documentary under 41 minutes!

So if you’ve got 41 minutes, are bored over Winter Break, and/or are considering creating a documentary for your capstone project- check out my project!

Dear Future Minor in Writing Capstone Students,

The Writing Minor Capstone is A LOT. A lot of work… and a lot of fun! In this process, you will learn so much about yourself and how you can stretch your own capabilities and continue to learn and grow, and you will also learn so much about the other people in your capstone. 

You with all your research
You and all your new friends from Capstone!

Picking a project to do is scary. Like really scary. It feels like you’re committing a lot of time and effort to something you might not be completely sure about. And yes, it’s super intimidating when some of your classmates have deeply meaningful and personal projects. But I’m here to tell you that it’s going to be okay. You will find something you are willing to spend your time on. Something that you are excited to spend your time on! If it’s not there at the beginning, it may be something you find later in the process. It’s so important to make sure you end up with a subject/topic you care about- it’s going to be a lot of time and work and it won’t be a fun time or meaningful to you if you don’t care about it. 

When trying to choose a project, don’t get caught up in the “writing” in Minor in Writing. From capstone, we learned that everything is multimedia. If writing is something you want to do for your project- great! Just remember that it doesn’t all have to be writing- it really shouldn’t all be just writing. There will be writing involved, don’t doubt it, but you can make something that isn’t primarily based in writing. That might even make your project more exciting to you!

All the things you can use!

Don’t be afraid to pivot and change your project. Your project will grow and evolve throughout the semester- welcome this change! Things happen and you might lose material or not be able to do what you set out to do and that’s okay! Whatever you make will be wonderful and I have faith that you will put your full effort into making it the best that it can be. 

Pivoting is hard but you’re going to a better job than Ross!

While it’s important to be adaptable and open to change, definitely try to set a plan for yourself as soon as possible to make sure you can get this all done in a non-overwhelming manner. Time management is key for this project. You’re going to have a lot to do and if you leave it all for the end, it will be a miserable last few weeks as you’re scrambling. You need to pace yourself, but also save room for change. 

When you’re workshopping, don’t feel like you have to accept everyone’s suggestions. It’s great to get feedback from others, especially in areas you’re unsure about. However, it’s important to stay true to yourself, your vision, your goals for this project. Don’t lose sight of that while you’re trying to please others. This is your capstone. Make it your own. Take the suggestions your agree with and maybe try to address the problems people bring up in a different way if you don’t like the suggestions they have. 

All the suggestions you’re going to get!

You’re going to be overwhelmed but you’re going to be okay. You can do this! It’s going to be a wild and fun ride.

Prepare yourselves… for the journey of a lifetime! … or Minor!

Wishing you the best of luck,

Amy Zhang

Capstone F19

Surprisingly Coming Along

Taylor Swift GIF
Me at the beginning of this project.

At the beginning of this project, I had multiple nervous breakdowns about how I would not be able to finish it and how scheduling interviews with people would be super difficult and how I didn’t know how to use film equipment or how to do anything. Looking at how far I’ve come from sitting in a nervous mess in T’s office, I feel confident in moving forward. I am relieved that this week I am wrapping up all my interviews and then I will be editing and filming additional scenes to break up some of the monotony of looking at faces in the film. 

While I am making good progress, I still have many concerns about my project. A decision I made early on has made the creation of my project site very difficult- I decided that I would draw upon the responses that I got from my interviews in order to build and add resources to my site. However, I feel like there are few opportunities for this and thus I am worried about the future of my project site. I wish I could shake people and make them tell me what I want to hear. But to be honest, I don’t even know what I want to hear. And I want everything to be ~organic~ and ~authentic~. I still have 3 more interviews to conduct so I’m hoping that I’m able to link different topics to the responses I get from those. 

I feel like I probably have more than I think I do in terms of connections to positive practices and mental health. Editing and going back through the footage next week will definitely help me in figuring out my connections. Talking to my mentors in Positive Organizational Scholarship and Wolverine Support Network will also help guide me in my process and steer me in the right direction for research and resources. Part of me wants to turn to them- TELL ME WHAT TO DO. GUIDE ME. TAKE OVER THIS SHIP- but I know I need to steer on my own. 

Going forward, I feel like I’m diving into a second phase of research after my initial phase that shaped my project. This second phase of research will be focused on “how to edit a documentary”, “documentaries for dummies”, “what in the heck do I do in iMovie to make my video do this”. This second wave will also focus on topics that my interviewees have mentioned such as: mindfulness, hygge, and journaling. I feel like I’m learning so much about happiness and I’m also learning about filmmaking floundering in this unfamiliar territory. 

Important research.

I am absolutely terrified that my end product will be boring. I’m so scared that no one will be interested in sitting through my 45 minute – (however long I actually end up making my documentary) minute film. I’m definitely focusing on the content of the interviews rather than the cinematography but that certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t care how the end product looks. 

The task of cutting through 3 hours of 15 interviews is also daunting to me- how will I ever decide what to cut out?? How will I make everything flow together?? What if the audios sound different and what about the coloring changes based on lighting?? 

But at the same time I am so excited. 

I am excited by the responses that my interviewees have given me. 

I am excited by the prospect of sharing people’s stories with others. 

I am excited for people to hopefully learn and gain something from watching my documentary- even if it’s just a smile on their faces.

Dangers of A Made Up Mind

To prepare for a class that’s supposed to be all about creativity, I probably did the worst thing I could ever do. I walked into the first day of class with my mind set. Last semester, I had two meetings with T and we had discussed the possibility of me focusing on the Michigan Student Experience for my Capstone project. I attached myself to this idea and shut everything else out, confidently explaining my idea to my classmates on the first day of class. I thought, “this is it. I am so lucky to have settled on an idea early on”. But now, I feel like I’m the last one to decide. 

It all started with our free-write about topics we were interested in. To be honest, I probably would’ve taken this assignment more seriously and tried to be a lot more creative if I hadn’t come in with such a closed mindset. Nonetheless, I was still able to write out some interesting topics that I referred back to when I was creating my 4 pitches for the class. 

I’m thankful for the pitch writing assignment because it forced me to consider a lot of important factors and to flesh out multiple ideas. In the process of creating the pitches, I realized that my idea about the Michigan Experience might be too big of an undertaking and would not have as much grounding in research as I had originally thought. My other ideas started to become a lot more appealing to me as I began to visualize how each route would look like. 

The first and second pitch revolved around my initial Michigan experience idea and were the easiest to write. When I first heard about the assignment, my plan was to write four different methods of executing the Michigan Experience idea. However, after writing two and exhausting the two types of formats I was interested in, I felt like I should consider some alternative ideas. Thus, I began to widen my scope. I thought about things that I was curious about, questions I wanted to answer. My last two pitch ideas were all driven by personal relevance and the topics were both questions I wanted to learn more about. After fleshing out these ideas, it became clear to me that the only part of the project I felt certain about for all of my ideas was the fact that I wanted to interview people. 

As I pitched my ideas in class, I began to notice that I focused a lot on my methodology for the projects, and not the actual topics themselves. I really want to create some type of short documentary or podcast for this project and I am so glad that there are so many resources on campus that can make this aspect of the project a reality. Going into the pitch process, I did not have a “favorite” topic. I really liked all of my ideas and wanted to listen to some of the feedback and ideas my peers had for me. I wanted to choose the topic that I would be able to execute the best. 

I was a little shocked by the fact that all of my commenters focused on my last topic- How to Measure Happiness. As they jumped in with ideas on how to expand this topic to include socioeconomic factors, religion, science and research, capitalism, and even the meaning of happiness, my own brainstorm process restarted as I started to think about how I could execute this project. The very next day I met another student in my Strategy course who was from Copenhagen, which was my inspiration for this topic, and I took this as a sign to pursue this topic for my project. She has already agreed to allow me to interview her for either my documentary or podcast. 

While I am excited to begin and to learn about even more resources on North Campus, I am a little bit nervous and feel daunted by this large assignment. I have no idea how I am going to pull everything together and I feel as if I have such grandeur hopes for the final project that I am afraid to disappoint myself and to not fulfill my vision. I suppose only time can tell. All I know is that moving forward, I will be conscious of my mindset and make sure that I never come to class again with a closed mind.

Introducing My Gateway E-portfolio

At 6:02 PM, December 15th, 2017, I hit the “Publish” button on Wix. Wow. This is a bit anticlimactic. I feel like I’ve gained so much from this course that the final embodiment of my work, the site, is simply a place that houses the progress I’ve already made-in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Throughout this semester, I’ve learned so much about writing and the possibilities of writing. But by far the biggest way I’ve grown is that I’ve begun to learn how to accept failure and the art of making mistakes. I used to be physically pained by mistakes. One misspelling would irk me for days. Now, I understand the value of mistakes and that not everything can be 100% perfect. If there are textbooks that have been reviewed by multiple editors with typos, I think I can handle making small mistakes without obsessing over them.

Besides making mistakes, I’ve discovered an excitement for audio and visual forms of writing. I believe that people perform best when they are doing something they actually enjoy doing. I hope to continue to use multimodal writing, inside and outside of my writing classes to continue to explore and build upon the skills I’ve gained from now until the capstone and beyond. I will never stop writing-because technically everything is writing.

But for now, here’s my site:

Multimodality in Everyday Texts

After reading Chapter 1 of Writer/Designer, I began to pay more attention to the modes used in texts I encounter in my everyday life. The 5 modes discussed in the chapter are: linguistic, aural, visual, spatial, and gestural. As I focused more on the texts I saw, I started to notice the use of these modes everywhere:

  • Gmail: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy (Youtube): Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Facebook: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • LinkedIn: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Handshake: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • The Forest and the Trees: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Graphic T-shirt: Linguistic, Visual Spatial
  • Rowing Poster: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Pleasantville (Movie): Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Canvas: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Google Calendar: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Philanthropy Video: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Sociology Powerpoints: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Psychology Articles: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Soymilk Container: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Menu at Angelo’s: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Michigan Agenda: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Internship Applications: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Instagram: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Snapchat: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Flier in Ross: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial

While I may not have caught all the multimodal texts in my environment, I definitely noticed a lot more than I would have before reading this chapter. Looking at the list above, it’s easy to see that all of the texts I have encountered use linguistic, visual, and spatial modes. I attempted to look for texts that only used one mode, but it was impossible—multimodality is present in every text, the modes are just used in different ways and with varying degrees.

7/20 of these texts contained all 5 modes. Upon closer observation, I realized that all the texts I saw with all 5 modes are social media sites and videos, forms of entertainment. It is no surprise to me that forms of entertainment utilize all 5 modes, as their deliberate usage increases audience engagement. While social media sites and videos are comparatively new, forms of entertainment have always used these 5 modes, proving their effectiveness through the ages.

Perhaps the two most different texts were an internship application and Pleasantville, a movie. As you can see from one page of the application shown, Cisco only utilized linguistic, visual and spatial modes. The usage of the linguistic mode can be seen through the simple word choices, as well as the organization of the words into questions and answer choices. The visual mode contributes to the layout of the application as well as the black and white color scheme. The spatial mode accounts for the organization of the application in different “steps” as well as the arrangement of the questions. These modes are effectively used to create a simple and intuitive job application that doesn’t look to “busy”. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Pleasantville uses the linguistic, aural, visual, spatial and gestural modes. The trailer for the movie can be viewed here: The linguistic mode is evidenced by the word choice as well as the delivery of the movie script. Music, sound effects, tone of voice, volume, and emphasis are heard through the aural mode. The organization and proximity between people/objects of each scene is arranged through the spatial mode. The gestural mode applies to every movement—on the face, hands, body—of all the actors in the movie. These modes are used to increase the entertainment value of the movie, capturing the attention of audience members by providing constant stimuli. The difference in the use of modes definitely contributes to how different these two texts are. It is extremely interesting to see how these modes work in different types of texts, catering to the various functions of the texts.

A Blog Post about a Dumb Diary

What is a Diary? A diary is a private place where you can write about your feelings, thoughts, opinions, etc.—Basically, you can write whatever you want. Keeping a diary is a great idea because you can go back and read your old entries to see how you’ve grown.

But what is Dear Dumb Diary? Dear Dumb Diary is a book series written by Jim Benton aimed at the audience of children just beginning to read chapter books (suggested age is 9+). He teaches them to values of friendship through the experiences of a younggirl named Jamie Kelly.

As someone who has read Dear Dumb Diary books in the past, I believe it is the perfect way to reach children just when they start to read. Benton’s books are easy to read, have many visual depictions, and address problems that are “relatable” to young children—keeping them interested.

My topic of addressing the negative attitude towards attention seeking behavior is something that I wish to instill in people at a young age. Getting the message out to people when they are still learning how to interact socially with others will help shape all their future social relationships.

So, how am I going to do this? I am researching attention-seeking behavior in young children to try to figure out what larger message I want to send through my experiment. I am also looking online to find tips on how to write diary entries and why people write them. Lastly, I’m examining examples of entries from Benton’s books to help me get a better idea of how I’m going to tackle my topic in this genre.

Attention Seeking Behavior in Children:

  • Behavior is dependent on caretaker availability
  • The Dollard and Miller Theory- conditioned fear/anxiety model to deal with children’s separation anxiety- children fear when they are separated from their caretakers and feel relieved when they are reunited
  • Younger age- more attention seeking behavior towards parent of opposite sex
  • Correlation shown through experiment done with painting and caretaker interaction

Some tips I’ve found for Diary writing:

  • Be willing to write
  • Decide what you want to write
  • Set a timer so you aren’t writing for too long (unless this restricts your creativity)
  • Don’t stress over it
  • Starting to write is the hardest part and then the rest will flow
  • Decide when you want to write- will this be regular or just whenever you feel like you have something to write about?
  • Date your entries
  • Create an intro entry for your first entry
  • Write to your diary likes it’s a friend you completely trust
  • Ask yourself questions

Some reasons that people write Diaries:

  • Historical account of events
  • Potential Publication
  • Make given moment last forever
  • Tell your side of the story
  • Shed light on details of your life

Some conventions I’ve noticed in Benton’s entries:

  • “Dear Dumb Diary” to begin every entry
  • Date at the top of every entry
  • Talks about daily events
  • Includes personal stories
  • Short
  • Humorous
  • Dramatic
  • Sketches to demonstrate what she’s talking about
  • Very conversational tone- as if actually talking to Diary
  • Usually complaining about something
  • “Thinking out loud” style
  • Very descriptive language
  • Simple vocabulary
  • Vivid examples to illustrate points being made

Benton frames his “Diaries” surrounding a big singular event, focusing on the events that happen before, during, and after in multiple entries. I’m planning on mimicking Benton’s style of writing to write my own diary entries in the form of a novel, potentially using the same character of Jamie Kelly in order to address my topic of attention-seeking behavior in children. I hope to delve into the topic by creating personal experiences for Jamie that involve this type of behavior, it’s consequences, and how she feels about it. I’m playing around with the idea of including diary entries from both Jamie as well as another character I will create who is actually exhibiting the attention-seeking behavior. I will not be able to get super technical in this genre because it is directed at children and the message needs to be portrayed in a clear and simple manner.

This will be a little different from writing a personal diary as I will be writing from the perspective of a girl in elementary school/middle school. However, I believe that I will still be able to draw from my own experiences to help fabricate detailed stories to tell in the diary entries. I’m excited to draw upon the research I’ve done to send a message to children and maybe even their parents (who may be reading the book to their children). I want people to learn at a young age why attention-seeking behavior occurs and why it isn’t always something to be labeled as negative. Hopefully this book will help kids learn how to treat/act towards each other.

“How to” Make a “How to” Video

Growing up, I watched Youtube videos instead of TV shows. Over half the videos I watched could be placed in the “How To” video category. I watched makeup tutorials, DIY crafting videos, advice videos, and the list goes on. But by far, my favorite videos were Ryan Higa’s “How to be a _______” videos—just the perfect amount of stupid but funny. This is his most recent one:

I’ve always wanted to make my own parody “How to” video just like Ryan’s and I guess I’m finally going for it! My Youtube video will be titled: “How to be an Attentive Friend”. I’ve chosen to tackle this topic because I believe that the problem of people taking their friends for granted is extremely prevalent in our society today. I know that people, especially teenagers, are often uncomfortable with breaching serious topics, so I hope a parody “How to” Youtube video will make them more receptive to the information.

But wait! I’ve never done this before! How will I ever figure out “How to” make a “How to” video? Have no fear, here is:

This is where you decide basically everything. What are you gonna say? Do you need to do research? What are you going to do in your video? What are you going to do with all this freedom ahhhhhh!

Well, there are two routes you can take:

  1. The “steps”/ “lessons” route- In this route, you break your ideas down into steps or lessons. You can come up with these on your own or ones that someone else has created and plan out how to bring them to life by adding your own flair. Steps are better for simple topics while lessons are better for more complex ones. You can make as many steps/lessons as you want and make them as detailed/simple as you want.

I’m planning on taking this route and using “lessons”. I might look for legit lessons that someone else has written and make a parody of them through my depiction.

  1. The “just do it” route: Since you don’t need to write out steps/lessons because you’ll be creating a continuous demonstration, just write out an action plan for what you’re going to do.

Remember to plan out every section of your video—not just the body! You may want to include a scene in your intro showing why people need to keep watching your video by showing them how the situation is usually a “struggle”. You may also want to include a scene at the end or even the beginning where you display your end product/how everything is “new and improved” after following your guide.

You probably don’t want to be reading off a sheet of paper in your video—unless it’s an added effect for humor. You do you! I advise memorization because it gives you the freedom to make facial expressions and use gestures, allowing you to demonstrate what you’re talking about.

Filming a video without props, other people, and costumes isn’t very fun. But you do you! Really think about how you can make your script come to life and prepare everything you need to so. If you have different characters, you can always drag your friends in or play multiple characters by wearing different costumes and using different voices like Lilly Singh does.

Make sure you have everything you need to film your video before you start filming so everything goes smoothly!

Honestly I’m probably going to use an iPhone camera and have someone else film it for me. But if you have fancy equipment and all that, use it!

Filming is slightly different depending on what route you chose in Step 1:

Steps/Lessons: Film the video in separate sections since you’re going to edit it later—it’ll make it easier for memorization and give you time to change the props/backgrounds for different scenes if you have them.

Just do it: Film the video continuously as you are demonstrating exactly what one needs to do to accomplish the set goal.

Cut. Cut. Cut.










Jk, there’s more than just cutting it down—but cutting is super important because you don’t want to bore your viewers! Besides cutting, you might want to add some pizzazz to your video! You can add pop-ups, links, special effects, sound effects, etc.

Steps/Lessons: During this step you can put in text that says “Step 1: blah blah blah” or “Lesson 1: blah blah blah” so the audience knows exactly what you’re talking about.

Just do it: Make sure you cut out failed attempts unless you want to leave them in for humor. You can also speed through some sections of your tutorial as some steps may be repetitive/take a long time. Including a “voiceover” while you are rolling your demonstration scenes can allow you to be more informative.

Share your content! Be proud of what you’ve created! Whether you make someone laugh, or give them really good advice, or help them accomplish a goal that they’ve set themselves—you need to post it so your audience can see it!

A lot of Youtubers include a “blooper reel” at the beginning or the end of their video. I’m definitely going to include one because I know I’ll have plenty. This is one of my favorite parts of the video because viewers can see the Youtuber’s personality “off-screen” which could make them like them as a person more and increase subscribers.

And that’s it! I’m so excited to make my video because I think I will be able to reach a lot of people with my message. People who typically search for “How to” videos are looking to learn something and are more open to new/contradictory ideas. These people will help spread what they learn to others through sharing links, posting, or even just by acting differently. I can’t wait to get started and I’ll definitely link my video here when I’m finished!