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The Last Post of 2017 (Part 2)


Story Three: The Orange Backpack (Continued from Part One)

I went to Vancouver Film School for their Film Production Program. It was the best years of my life. Nearing the end of my time there I was directing a short film with eight of my friends. Everything was going according to plan smoothly until the second last day of shooting.

Our school was situated near East Hastings, a very dodgy neighbourhood with many occurances of petty crimes. In order to help load our production van, I took off my backpack for a moment. In there was my personal camera, my headphones and most importantly my one and only hard drive with all the footages of my graduating project on it.

As fate would have it, someone walked away with my backpack when I wasn’t looking. The shock was immense. I went through the first stages of loss immediately: shock, denial, Pain, Guilt, Anger, Bargaining and Depression.

I spent a fortune to come to this prestigious school to chase after my dreams. At the final moment I lose the crowning jewels. I was angry at my editor who did not back up my files. I printed posters and put them up in the neighbourhood. I staked out at local soup kitchens and drug centres to see if I can catch a glimpse of my orange backpack. More than a few times I would dash out of restaurants in the middle of a lunch because I thought someone with an orange backpack just walked by. I became delusional and psychotic. Even suspecting my classmates for sabotaging my project.

Most painfully, I was depressed. For weeks afterward I couldn’t even find the strength to get out of my bed. What was the point? As the due date of the final project loomed closer I became more and more desperate.

As with all such stories, a woman had to save the day. My girlfriend at the time found out what happened and immediately said: “You have to Re-shoot!” I was not ready to hear that. Re-shoot two weeks of my film? We had interior sets that were torn down. We had horses, swords, furnitures, costumes, props. It was absolutely crazy and impossible!

Well let me tell you what is impossible – Apparently Nothing!

I dragged myself out of bed and organized a meeting of all the people on the project. I still remember sitting there at the head of the table on the verge of tears. I accepted full responsibility for losing the footage and told everyone about the two roads in front of us: We can either accept defeat or we can overcome this and emerge victoriously. I said I was prepared to do anything to make it happen if we as a group wanted to reshoot. I also said I can understand if anyone feel they do not want to take part in this impossible feat.

To my absolute amazement, not a single person at the table said no. We all wanted to make it happen. No one wanted to walk away. No one wanted to abandon hope. I was the leader they believed in and I was not going to let them down. Even if it took everything I’ve got.


Over the next few days many things happened. I started an Indiegogo campaign which eventually raised over $1500. I pleaded with the school to allow me to use the studio space again. We miraculously found most of our flats so we reconstructed our interior set. We got most of our props back from the rental houses at a discounted price. We even went back to the farm we used earlier and reshot the missing scenes.

The stars lined up and our film was reshot in a few days. We had all but one of the original missing scenes. With some editing we made the story flow. At graduation we all sat in VIFF theatre and watched it on the big screen. To most other audiences it was just another student short film, but to us it was pieces of our souls fused together. It was a testament that each and everyone of us withstood the challenge. We didn’t give up on hope and we didn’t give up on each other. We came together and came through.

To be with a group of human beings who love and respect you; To work on something you all believe in; To accomplish an “impossible” feat against all odds. I do not know of anything more beautiful, more timeless and more worthy than that.


This post is dedicated to my dear dear friend Navlesh Mudlair, my D.O.P. for my very first film “The Calling”. He passed away at a tender young age. Thank you for never turning your smiling face away from me. Thank you for always reaching out with your helping hand. Your spirit lives with my first film and will continue to live through to my last film. R.I.P. my D.O.P.

Zen Wang

Click below for a peek at my student films.


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