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From lip-syncing music videos for "kicks and giggles" to touring the entire country for their first feature length film, Philip Wang, Wesley Chan and Ted Fu of Wong Fu Productions are showing that they are more than just an internet phenomenon.
"It's always the first line that grabs people," muses Wong Fu's Wesley Chan. "In fashion magazines, they always start with, 'I'm sitting at the café, drinking a latte with Leo DiCcaprio.' You should write: 'The guys were two minutes late. We got boba. Phil didn't know what he got.'"
Philip Wang interjects, "You should start with, 'I couldn't get anyone interesting to interview so I got these guys. I found them off the street and asked Are you guys doing anything tonight?'"
Well, I didn't quite find Wesley Chan and Philip Wang off the street. Rather, only after weeks of exhausting emails and schedule rearrangements did I finally get a hold of two of the three Wong Fu Productions filmmakers (Ted Fu was out of town). As we sit in a bustling Lollicup boba shop with loud Chinese pop music playing overhead, Philip and Wesley (Phil and Wes, as they liked to be called) spent two whole hours with me, chatting about what, according to Wes, every conversation always revolves around -- "work and relationships."
Wong Fu Productions was formed by Philip Wang four years ago when he was a freshman at UCSD, making music videos and short films for fun. The videos grew in popularity through emails and word of mouth. Eventually, a friend posted their rendition of Justin Timberlake's "Senorita" on YouTube, and it became one of its most played videos. As Phil became more and more invested in pursuing video production as a career, he sought out his two talented classmates, Ted Fu and Wesley Chan, to eventually form the present Wong Fu trio. The three friends and coworkers graduated from UCSD a little over a year ago and currently reside in Los Angeles.
After a year of touring all over the country for their first feature length film A Moment With You, you would think that the boys could finally settle down for a bit. But there are constantly things that still need to be done. They continue to produce work for their popular website www.wongfuproductions.com, which averages thousands of hits a day.
Their revamped music videos to songs like Maroon 5's "Sunday Morning" and Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" found their way into thousands of high school and college students' hearts. As a result, over the years, they developed a following which allowed them to fill up hundreds of theater seats around the country when it came time to showcase their first feature. While Wong Fu is grateful, they also admit that being coined an "internet phenomenon" has its downfalls.
"Some people who go to film school, they'll make something great but it's only seen by like, two hundred people," says Wang. "We make something that is, you know, it's good; some stuff is great, some stuff is mediocre, and it's seen by hundreds of thousands of people. It's kind of not fair."
Some people might suggest that this type of fanaticism comes from Wong Fu's cute, boy-next-door, good looks and the charming everyday themes of love and friendship that they explore in their projects. Facebook is filled with "Wong Fu Productions Addict" and "I love WongFu" groups, and though the majority of Wong Fu's fans are adolescent girls swooning at the sight of them, a good portion of their admirers are guys as well, albeit mostly spiky haired Asian boys. At the last screening of A Moment With You in downtown LA, the David Henry Hwang theater was filled seat to seat with both giggly teenage girls who couldn't keep their eyes off Philip, Wes and Ted as well as cheering boys shouting, "You guys rock!" -- all snapping pictures with their cameras like the paparazzi.
So how does Wong Fu take all this adoration? "We deal with it, and we'll take pictures with them when they want it," says Phil, "but in our minds, we'll just be like, 'Why do you want this picture?'
"It's so weird. I'd be reading comments like, 'Wes is so cool' but he'll just be in the room next to me. I don't think we're that cool."
Wes agrees and adds, "We respond with a smile." However, he admits he knows how it feels to admire Wong Fu. "I actually asked you for a picture first," he says to Phil, "so I can't say that I don't understand why you're a phenomenon, but once I started entering that world..."
Phil jokes, "He got bored of me. No more pictures."
At times, the large number of supporters may overwhelm the boys, but they don't take their fame for granted. "I don't think it was necessarily like it fell into our laps." Philip says, "cause I mean, if it was just one thing, and it got a lot of attention, then we kind of got lucky. But the fact that we continued, and we've kept that attention; I feel like that's come with a lot of hard work and perseverance too because there were definitely times where we felt like, 'Why are we doing this; do we want to continue this?'"
They were invited to travel across the country on a promotions tour for their first feature film A Moment With You entirely out of someone else's pocket. Two of their latest projects, a music video collaboration with the group "Magnetic North" for the song, "Drift Away" and "A Moment with You" were official selections for the Disorient Asian Film Festival of Oregon and San Diego Film Festival. These are just a couple of reasons that perhaps convinced Wong Fu to continue on their filmmaking path.
However, as their bar is set higher and higher and the pressure to catch the industry professional's attention while maintaining their fan base increases, Wong Fu is doing some very serious brainstorming for their upcoming projects.
"If you look at the past kind of trend of stuff we've made, they are all pretty similar stories," says Chan, "Usually young people in relationships, about how they work and how they don't work. And it makes sense because that's the stuff we've experienced. But after so much, you want to show people that you can do more than that. And if it means kind of shocking some people, or having some people say, 'Oh I don't like that,' I think it's still worth a try. Because we don't want to be confined."
According to Phil, one of their potential future projects is "definitely a lot darker than anything we've done.... A lot of the times I think we just end up going with the funny stuff because it's more fun to make or more people will enjoy it, but we are definitely more capable of doing other stuff too."
While tackling a darker project is something Wong Fu is working on, pursuing any more race-themed project is something that may be placed on the back burner for now. One of Wong Fu's first breakout short films, Yellow Fever demystified the trend of Asian women dating white men in a humorous manner. Although their work features mostly Asian Americans, Wong Fu isn't trying to make any social or political statements about Asian American issues.
Still, Wong Fu cannot help but still to be considered role models for Asian Americans hoping to make it in the entertainment industry.
"Just that we're putting on a positive image, putting out quality things, is saying a lot for Asian Americans in this country," says Phil. "We lead by example. Instead of making a video about standing up for Asian people or about Asians not being nerds, it just shows in our work kind of by default just because we are Asian Americans."
Wes adds, "I think our work has significantly influenced Asian American youth. People see the three of us doing something unconventional and they are inspired to pursue their true passion as well."
With a new business division entitled Sketchbook Media, in addition to more short films, miniseries and video projects on the horizon, Wong Fu's empire continues to grow and their influence on Asian American youth looks to be greater than ever.
Click here for more Wong Fu trivia.
Date Posted: 7/13/2007