IN THEIR OWN WORDS
UPPER KEYS WEEKLY / DECEMBER 24, 2020
“FIRST STOP, KEY LARGO; NEXT STOP, HOLLYWOOD!” DAN SAFETY MOVIE SHOOT COMES TO THE KEYS
lived in Los Angeles for 15 years and I never stepped foot on a movie set, let alone starred in anything. Recently, though, I found myself in Key Largo, personally scouted for and filming a new safety TIFFANY video for Divers Alert Network (DAN). DUONG Actually, I take that is a self-made back. There was that one mermaid who time years ago when I loves all things accidentally wandered cheesy (romantic into a CSI (Crime Scene and dairy) and thrives in the 3 am Investigation) TV set in hour. She believes downtown L.A. A notin leaving it all on empty body bag lay in the field and has the alleyway that I always never met a (mis) shortcutted through to adventure she didn’t love. get to my building. I saw it and screamed. Heart racing, I backed away, straight into a set hand who tried to assure me everything was okay while holding a half-eaten donut. When the bludgeoned body in the bag sat up due to the commotion, I just about died. Turns out, CSI was filming near to my house, and I had wandered onto the set on break. That was the start and end of my very obscure run in with Hollywood … until now.
About a month ago, several friends reached out to me about a DAN video shoot in the Keys. They were looking specifically for diverse divers to reflect their many offices, including some newly-acquired in the far East. Turns out, it’s all about who you know in this industry — scuba and movies. There aren’t that many Asians in the Keys’ dive community, so I had three different scuba buddies tap me for the role. One gracious friend said they were looking for beautiful Asians to help while another mentioned just being Asian and breathing as the minimum requirements. Either way, I decided this could be my “big (little) break” and a really fun way to contribute to an organization I believe in. DAN is the diving industry’s largest association dedicated to scuba diving safety and a mainstay for watermen and women in the Keys. I’ve been a member since my early dive days, so to be cast in the latest safety video had me “fan-girling,” to say the least. This was the fifth time they tried shooting the video. Wendy Berry, the video’s producer, told me how she and her husband, Ken, the producer and director, tried the shoot twice in California, where they live. Both were canceled due to pandemic shutdowns. Jim Gunderson, DAN’s assistant director of training, suggested the Florida
Keys as an alternate location. The first time they tried to fly out to the Sunshine State, a California wildfire dangerously near the Berrys’ home prevented them from getting their gear or clothes. Our notoriously fickle winter weather (a.k.a. Tropical Storm Eta) put the kibosh on try two. Finally, just before Thanksgiving, the (Hollywood) stars aligned, and we began filming at John D. Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. “I would come back to Key Largo in a heartbeat,” Ken said. “We are very familiar. That’s part of the reason we chose the Keys: we knew what to expect. And, we could use a local videographer and local talent.” The local videographer was none other than Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Frazier Nivens, who knows these waters and the islands’ people as well as he knows the sharks he’s most famous for documenting. The amateur talent was mostly local, including dive instructors from Key Largo and Marathon and regular weekend dive customers from Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Oh, and me — little, Asian, breathing, diving me. Shalini Nemani, who works in biotech technology, and Christian Hernandez, who works for an insurance company, drove in from Tampa after hearing the call for more diverse talent. “I’m a big champion for diversity and inclusion, for fostering that sense of be-