“Wushu” Vies for Top Spot in NESN Next Producer
New England Sports Network is hosting its second season of NESN Next Producer, a program the network describes as “part Shark Tank, part America’s Got Talent.” The series features short films produced by New England college filmmakers, who compete for a $20,000 prize and a job opportunity at NESN. Wushu, a Wellesley entry by Tina Xu ’17, is one of 12 semifinalists.
Each of the program’s first six episodes will feature two student-produced films and the back stories of the filmmakers, who hail from nine area colleges and universities. The films are judged by two Hollywood producers with local ties, Television Hall of Famer and Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner and Newton, Mass., native writer, director, and producer Brad Falchuk, best known as the co-creator of Glee, American Horror Story, and Scream Queens.
For the series finale on March 25, Werner and Falchuk will select three finalists. Each will meet with Red Sox marketing executives and will produce a Red Sox vignette, and a winner will be selected based on both the students’ original submissions and the Red Sox shorts.
The Chinese practice of wushu, which is both an exhibition and full-contact sport derived from martial arts, is the subject of Xu’s film. Although NESN’s content focuses on sports—and wushu certainly qualifies—Xu asserts that “sport” is too narrow a definition for wushu. “While it involves discipline and physical strength, wushu has cultural and spiritual dimensions as well… It could be considered a sport, and not only a sport, but a cultural art and a philosophy,” she said.
Xu watched wushu as a child, but became involved herself when she joined the Wellesley wushu team as a sophomore. Coach Calvin Wang coaches across the Boston area and frequently conducts group practices to allow different wushu teams to meet one another. Xu met Evelyn Zheng, the subject of her NESN film, through those joint practices; they connected because of both their appreciation of wushu and their commitment to social justice and politics. Xu is a political science major at Wellesley; Zheng attends Harvard Law School.
“I had coffee with her five days before the deadline for the NESN film competition, and pitched [the story idea] to her,” said Xu. “I was ready for her to say no, because she is a busy law student, but Evelyn jumped in! We scripted and shot for three days in a row and I edited for two nights in a row. It was a hectic week, to say the least, but we got it done!”
“We wanted Evelyn’s story to be not just about wushu as a cultural art and philosophy, but also about what it means for her in her journey of understanding herself as part of the Chinese diaspora,” Xu continued. “It was impossible to talk about all of it without talking about her family, the immigrant narrative, and so on. We wanted to show that Evelyn is very proud of her many cultural identities, and that they make her stronger as a human and as a lawyer who fights to protect others. Many people think of wushu as a means to beat other people up, and similarly, many people think of the law as a way to bully others. However, both practicing wushu and practicing law should really be about using your power—in your fists or in your argumentation— to protect others.”
Xu believes her film connects to her own academic work in that storytelling and politics are intertwined: “The question driving my undergraduate studies is, ‘How does the distribution of power and resources in the world dictate varieties and magnitudes of human suffering?’” said Xu. “Interdisciplinary explorations have led me to plant my feet in a theory that informs the way I see the world and my place in it: Just as the physical world is bound by the forces of physics, the social world is fashioned out of narratives.”
The top 12 films are also eligible to win a Fan Favorite Award. One student filmmaker will be selected by online voting to receive a $1,000 cash prize. To view the films (and vote for Wushu!) visit NESNext.com.