In the late winter of 2018, Uriel, Tomoko and I made our first video together, a little sample of my teaching style, intended to promote my online tutoring service. Shortly after making it though, we saw its potential as an educational series, and set about building on it. ENGLISH WEIRDNESS was born in that moment, and here we are, two years later, having wrapped shooting on the final two episodes of what became a 10-episode season.

And it almost didn’t happen. A little less than than a month ago, Uriel and I had accepted that we would not make it to 10 episodes, that the 8 we had shot already would be as far as we could take the series, having run out of the financial backing we had been given by our partners at Sakata Minami high school in Japan, and time with which to shoot it. He and I both had travel planned, and he will begin film school at the end of February.

It was then that my beloved wife Yuka came forward and suggested financing the completion of the series with her own resources. Could we really do it? There was one weekend available on which Uriel and I would both be in Vancouver. That is, if he returned from his family vacation in Mexico a bit early. We decided to go for it. He’d return a few days before his family, and we’d shoot the final two episodes.

But wait, there was no script. The original scripts I had written for eps. 9 & 10 were useless because they involved performers and locations no longer available, or not yet available until summer. I did have, however the commitment from Aya, a co-star in episode 4 with whom I had planned to eventually feature in an episode. She committed to starring in the new episode. So, with her in mind, I began writing. Like crazy.

A VERY committed performer

The result was a final, two-part single episode now called AYA MOVES THE BIG CITY, and, surprisingly, it features, I think, some of my own best writing.

The, it was finding Aya a co-star. When teaching colleague of mine, Rafael, agreed to be in it, I was able to revise the script to fit him more closely. After a short volunteer campaign, we had built a crew of students who committed to the project. Logistics came next: scheduling, arranging props, organizing costumes, and clearing everything with my employer, who kindly allows us to shoot on its campus, food, supplies, and choosing the camera rental package. It was a ton of work, but when the day came, we were ready.

The shoot itself was grueling. Pressed for time to cover the material and access the locations, limited by the availability of the stars, and tested by the capricious Vancouver weather (the script called for exterior city scenes), and the parchingly dry air inside the school ‘studio’, over three days, the volunteer Weirdos, Uriel, Aya, Rafael and I managed to pull it off.

There were frustrating compromises, as always. Several pages of dialogue were cut from the schedule, and we ran out of time to shoot some coverage that I had really wanted to help bring the dramatic scenes to life. This, however, is the nature of filmmaking: you never get exactly what you envisioned, and the artistic challenge is to use what you DO capture to make the original vision come to life, and not just the way you intended, but better. That’s now my job. Over the next few months, I’ll be working hard editing not only this episode but the remaining two that were shot in the summer.

Thus, it will be some time before AYA MOVES THE BIG CITY is released. But, thanks to all the tireless support from our financial backers, and student volunteer crew, the great performances by Aya and Rafael, and of course, the creative and technical contributions of my most amazing collaborator from the start, Uriel, I can now say with certainty that this final episode will be a wonderful way to end this little video series that grew.

Paul thanks Uriel for the two years of his life he gave to WEIRDNESS

We don’t know what the future holds for English Weirdness, whether or not we’ll make another season of it. I’m going to try in the coming year to take it to the next level, and see what is possible, but nothing is guaranteed. I’ll also focus on making short-form videos in the “5-MINUTE MYSTERIES” series. As for Weirdness, all that is certain is what we have accomplished in these past two years, because the results are plain for anyone to see on Youtube and other platforms. Together the Weirdos and I have created something that might outlive all of us. That’s pretty cool. And a little weird.

So, to all of you who have supported us, participated in shooting, donated funds to us, encouraged us, or simply watched our videos, from the depths of my heart, thank you.


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Paul Duke

English instructor, writer, filmmaker and creator of the English Weirdness video project. Lives in Vancouver, Canada.

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