Popular Asian American YouTube filmmaking group Wong Fu Productions spoke for the first time at UCI in the Crystal Cove Auditorium last Wednesday night, Nov. 13 at 6:30 p.m. as a part of the four week-long Cross-Cultural Center Festival and Conference.
Formerly known as UCI’s annual Rainbowfest, the CCC festival “aims to promote dialogue around issues of diversity and multi-culturalism on campus” through partnering up with various cultural organizations and departments on campus. This year’s theme is Media & Representation.
Wesley Chan, Ted Fu and Philip Wang are the filmmakers of Wong Fu who spoke about the group’s humble beginnings, as well as how their YouTube fame has allowed others to view them as an inspiration for others in the Asian American community.
“When we started the channel, we just wanted to make videos,” Wang said. “We had no idea we’d be role models or making a difference in the Asian American community.”
The trio met in a visual arts class in 2004 as college students at UC San Diego, and after graduating in 2006 moved to Los Angeles to begin working on videos together while booking events at weddings and night clubs on the side.
Now after hitting one million YouTube subscribers in 2011 (they have 1.9 million now and over 283 million video views), Wong Fu has made itself a household name and has featured other famous YouTube celebrities such as comedian Ryan Higa and singer Cathy Nguyen in their videos. Their works have been shown at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, San Diego Asian Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival.
While Wong Fu produces funny sketches and music videos, they’re most known for their short and feature-length romantic films, usually starring an all-Asian American cast.
“YouTube has done so much for us because it has given people of all ethnicities a platform to show that they can do so much more than just what they’re known for,” Chan said. “We want to tell everyday stories with Asians ¾ we don’t always have to be doing kung fu in movies,” Wang added.
The trio showed the mainly-student comprised audience a couple reels of how their projects have evolved since 2006. Past Wong Fu films include “The Last,” a romantic short in which a man (“Glee”’s Harry Shum, Jr.) tells his current girlfriend (YouTube singer Kina Granis) about the women he’d loved before meeting her. As well as “Strangers, again,” the 13 million-viewer film that explores a romantic relationship between two young people and the aftermath of their breakup.
“I hope one day people can watch a Hollywood movie and notice more beyond the fact that the cast is Asian,” Wang said.
The group opened up the floor for a Q&A session, during which they cited Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Michael Chang as their inspirations in the media, and posed for pictures with fans while vendors sold clothing and memorabilia from their clothing line based on their short “Just a Nice Guy.”