21: It’s Not Just Sushi

21: It’s Not Just Sushi

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

It’s Not Just Sushi

Follow your passion, and success will follow you.

~Arthur Buddhold

Journalism — yes, in order to be a journalist you need to be able to write, but in order to be a broadcast journalist, you need to have some skills using the video camera as well. At my college, if your GPA is high enough you can opt to pursue a professional certificate through the university’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. All of the classes are non-credit and students participate in the program as an elective course of study. Being that I was studying broadcast journalism, I decided to get a certificate in digital filmmaking. I took some classes about lighting, sound and even interviewing, but the one that I learned the most from was most certainly a class called Digital Video Production I.

The class was held one day a week for eight hours each day over the summer. By the end of the class you were supposed to have finished your own short film. My professor began discussing potential topics we could pursue. He suggested doing something that had a personal meaning, but that would also appeal to a wider audience. I didn’t even listen to the rest of the lecture because I knew exactly what my video was going to be about: sushi. I love sushi. Most people love sushi. I couldn’t go wrong.

About a year before, I had given the Sushi Challenge at a local Japanese restaurant a shot. In order to complete the challenge, you have to eat thirty-two pieces of sushi (for a woman) or fifty-two pieces of sushi (for a man) in twenty minutes. Every time a contestant completes the challenge, the amount is raised by one. Considering I don’t eat raw fish, doing the entire challenge with tomago (egg) and shrimp made it a little difficult and I lost by four pieces. As it turned out, the two worst parts about losing were paying for your sushi and leaving with a bit of a stomachache. I still thought it was worth it.

Soon after the professor approved my topic, The Sushi Challenge went into production. I found my actors, my equipment, and got the okay from the restaurant owner. In order to be able to film the entire thing by myself and still capture every moment and angle, I decided to have one of the actors fake the challenge. Basically, I paid for fifty-two pieces of sushi, had him pretend to stuff his face, and got myself dinner at the same time. I brought back my footage and spent the last month of class editing my material. On the last day of class I showed everyone my film. Their reaction astounded me. Not only were my production skills praised by the professor, but everyone in the class genuinely enjoyed my short.

I couldn’t just let the film die with the class, so I decided to submit it to a few student filmmaking websites. On a whim, I also sent a copy to the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival. To my surprise, not only did I receive a call from a festival representative to tell me my film had been chosen, but I was also contacted by Yahoo.com. Someone at the website had seen my video on another website and wanted to feature it on their homepage for twenty-four hours. The Sushi Challenge went up and the phone calls started to pour in. I spoke to people I hadn’t spoken to since my first years in high school. People I barely even knew sent me messages on Facebook just to tell me how much they enjoyed it. After the twenty-four-hour time period was up, over half a million people had seen my film. Their reactions were rather overwhelming.

The excitement didn’t end there. November 11th rolled around — the day my film was being screened at the film festival. I was especially excited because my film was being shown in a theater that I often visit to see big, box office films. I arrived at the theater accompanied by my parents. Not only did my cousins come, as well as some close family friends, but a significant number of my sorority sisters too! You know that clichéd warm and fuzzy feeling that everyone talks about, but you don’t think it’s real? Well, it is. My film was screened and the reaction was more than anything I could have dreamed. I made people smile. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

I’ve since graduated from college, but have still left a legacy as the creator of The Sushi Challenge. And I’ll never forget about the sushi craze I created.

~Perri Nemiroff

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