Sophomore Michelle Tang wins UCHV's 2024 Short Movie Prize

May 30, 2024

Congratulations to Michelle Tang ’26, who won the 2024 UCHV Short Movie Prize for her film "David Doodles." 

Tang answers a few questions about her experiences making the film, which you can watch on Vimeo.

  1. Where are you from and what is your major?
    I am from Metuchen, New Jersey, and I am a Psychology major. 

  2. When did you start making movies and how did you come to make “David Doodles”?
    I made my first film when I was 13. I mainly taught myself by watching YouTube videos and reading articles. Up until starting college, my work was mainly narrative and commercial, and I had no interest in making documentaries. I had this very fixed and boring idea of what documentaries were up until taking my first documentary class, a freshman seminar taught by BJ Perlmutt. He introduced our class to many different forms of documentary filmmaking, and I was fascinated by the various techniques used by filmmakers. “David’s Doodles” was my first documentary and was made as a part of that class.

    I knew that I wanted to make a documentary about David before I even began that class. David and I met through my school’s Unified gym program which brings together students with and without mental disabilities. There, David and I became great friends and he wowed the entire class on a daily basis with his artistic skills. As a Psychology major, I’m very interested in neurodivergence, but as a friend, I’ve learned so much about how to carry myself through life from his optimistic perspective and his dedication to his art. Because of that, I knew David was going to be the perfect subject for my first documentary!

  3. What was your budget?
    About $30 was spent on snacks and pizza that we enjoyed during production. I was able to get equipment from my class and also used some of my own.

  4. Could you briefly describe the process you went through or any difficulties you had in making "David Doodles"?
    Overall, the production process was a lot of fun and ran relatively smoothly. David is super optimistic and someone I can always count on to try their best and jump into things. This was my first time making a documentary, so despite running smoothly, there were a lot of unexpected difficulties. Despite this, David’s cheerfulness energized me when things weren’t going as planned. Originally, the film was supposed to be more interview heavy than it turned out. Before filming, I interviewed David to make sure that we had a story, but with a camera pointed at him, David had trouble articulating his thoughts. Because David’s autism affects his speech and language processing abilities, I found that an interview was not the best way for David to express himself. Upon switching gears, I found that David was much better at speaking in a more natural environment and when unprompted like when he is interacting with his bird, drawing, or talking about his art. While these moments didn’t give as much background as an interview would, his personality and artistic process really shined through and that’s exactly what I was hoping to do. I loved the clips that I got filming David naturally that I’ve shifted to a more observational style in a lot of my work since then.

    This was probably my toughest project in terms of post-production, but also one of my favorites. Starting out, I did not think I would be able to put this together. I had all this footage, but it all seemed unconnected. Slowly, I was able to put the pieces together and find ways to transition from section to section. I discovered an interesting theme: David is reluctant to try a different artistic style, but I had him do just that in the film. That challenge represents the tumultuous stage of his life that he is about to approach as a graduating senior. David even talks about wanting to try new forms of art! That lucky link brought the piece together. I really wanted to reflect David’s fun personality and a cartoonish style which I did through the editing. Finally, I had David choose some of the pictures and sound effects because I really wanted the film to reflect who he was. Ultimately, I think David’s personality and perspective really brought the film to life, and we both felt that the editing reflected who he is. 

  5. Any final thoughts?
    David would like to thank everyone for their support and wants everyone to know that the art is like the 1950s style and 1960s limited animation style. You can check out his art on instagram: @davidsart296

    Something I was not able to highlight was the speed at which David is able to draw these pictures. Each of the drawings shown in the film were created in 2-3 minutes! Go David!

Watch the film