Two filmmakers from the popular YouTube channel Wong Fu Productions closed out the Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Celebration at Jack Morton Auditorium Monday.
Philip Wang and Wesley Chan, whose channel has garnered more than 3 million subscribers and about 500 million views, delivered the keynote to wrap up the monthlong celebration hosted by the Multicultural Student Services Center. At the event, they discussed their work as digital story tellers and the lack of Asian representation in entertainment.
Chan and Wang kept the conversation informal during an hourlong talk followed by a forty minute Q&A, which was moderated by Kendrick Chang, president of GW’s Hawaii Club.
Here are three takeaways from the event:
1. Deviating from traditional careers
Chan and Wang said growing up, they felt pressure from parents – especially when it came to career goals. Chan said his parents were confused when he first told them he was going to start a career making YouTube videos.
“That didn’t sound like engineering, doctor, lawyer, engineer or business,” he said.
Chan said he understood that his parents encouraged steady paying jobs because they wanted him to have stability, but it was ironic considering they wanted him to do art as an extracurricular activity before college.
Wang agreed and said a lot of Asian parents say the same thing to their kids.
“They make us do, like piano or art, but then say, ‘That’s just for extracurricular activities and college application – after that, stop,’” Wang said.
2. Importance of telling Asian stories
Wang said it’s time for change in entertainment, and Asian Americans need to be an equal part of mainstream narratives. Wang said the duo decided YouTube was the best medium for telling their stories.
“For a good 10 years, we spent that time trying to figure out what this is, and trying to create a system for telling stories,” Wang said.
Wang said that while other minority groups have also fought for space in the entertainment industry, Asian Americans continue to be neglected for starring roles.
Chan said he likes collaborating with other artists who share similar cultural experiences, because it has a greater influence when discussing issues like marginalization in Hollywood films.
“The Asian American story is like on Chapter Five,” Chan said. “There is still a long way to go for our community.”
3. Receiving feedback from the YouTube community
During the Q&A portion of the event, audience members asked questions about their views on diversity in the entertainment industry and how to overcome issues with image among Asian Americans. When the moderator asked how they deal with critics on their comment sections, they joked that they host many crying sessions.
Chan said positive online feedback and a strong crew inspires him to work on new projects, even after receiving criticism.
“At the same time, we’re human and sometimes we take it a little too personally, but in those moments we have a really supportive team,” Chan said.
Wang said he’s developed a “thick skin” for when a user comments “something ridiculous or racist.” He said that the responses from fans are what keeps them creating.
“Of course if it resonates more than we thought, then it does feel good,” Wang said. “We definitely are driven by it.”