I am backing this Kickstarter campaign:
Why? Well, honestly, I am working on the project, if it gets funded. So there is self-interest. But, I’ve helped fund other campaigns like this as well – and there’s a good reason why:
I, like ~2.5% of the population of LA County, work in the entertainment industry. What do I do? I’m an actor mostly – once in a while, I’m a web designer, and once in an even greater while, I’m a PA. While I’m not phenotypically Asian, my ancestry, language, and culture definitely speak to the contrary. I am a the first child of two Phillipine immigrants. My parents were born in different parts of the Philippines, and met here in the United States. Soon after, I was born in the East Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. When I was very young, my parents moved 20 minutes south to Long Beach, where I spent the entirety of my childhood.
Long story-short, I am an Asian-American male that works as an actor in Los Angeles, CA.
So, if there’s one thing I feel I can speak truthfully and honestly about, it’s that experience. Let me tell you, the situation sucks.
The fact is, that while things are improving for the Asian actor in Hollywood, it’s still definitely an uphill battle. Yes, every so often one of us gets awesome roles, like Sung Kang in the Fast and Furious films, or Steven Yeun in The Walking Dead. Unfortunately, they’re still the exception rather than the norm. For every Glenn Rhee or Han Seoul-Oh, there are scores of nerdy, de-sexualized, socially-inept, or straight up racially insensitive roles written for Asian-American actors. Actually, I wish we had it that good. “Scores,” makes it sound like there are tons of roles for Asian-Am actors. Percentage-wise, that’s not the case. And, those roles get scattered likes flakes in a goldfish bowl, with all of us actors fighting for what, in the end, isn’t very substatial. Sometimes, I’m just glad these roles even exist. But, part of me, too, feels like we need to find a way to break out of it.
As postulated in the 2006 documentary, The Slanted Screen, it really might just come down to the fact that there are very few people telling stories that reflect an Asian-American experience, because there just aren’t that many Asian-American writers. Thus, fewer of these stories get produced, and fewer roles for actors with Asian heritage are available.
Plus, even if people write Asian-American content, good luck getting it produced. Tell me – what studio has the cohones to fund it? None of them do. Simply put, they don’t know that it’ll make money. They hardly ever go for Asians in lead roles, citing that very reason. What more if the entire cast, as well as the content, are representative of Asian-America? Very. Slim. Chance.
Our only recourse: Self-production.
Unfortunately, filmmaking isn’t cheap. Not even counting salaries for the talent and crew, the cost of shooting something with good production value easily breaks into the tens of thousands. Equipment has to be rented, cast and crew have to be fed, people not local to the area have to be housed, shooting permits have to be paid for, music royalties need to be taken care of… the list is long, and the pockets must be deep, especially when talking about a feature film.
The really sad thing, though, is that even when someone has the gumption, the drive, to attempt to get the money together, the support isn’t there a lot of the time. Finding investors that are willing to dump large sums of money into a project is rare. As such, many filmmakers opt for crowdfunding through places such as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. Even then, finding people that want to help out requires an insane amount of effort and self-promotion.
Unfortunately, no one seems to want to help the budding artists. No one really cares about you until you’re on the public radar – basically until you get to the point when you no longer need the help you’re asking for. For example, take the recent Kickstarters by Zach Braff and Spike Lee. People come out in droves, and their goals are met in a matter of days… far before the end of their campaign. Meanwhile, filmmakers without a big name have to fight tooth and nail for every dollar. They have far smaller funding goals, ask for less money, yet they have to sell people that much harder to convince them to give even a $5 donation.
It’s almost not fair. I realize times are tough and responsibilities are many. But sometimes it really is worth it, especially when you know the people you’re backing are talented and competent filmmakers who really do deserve the help to get their film made. Because really… no one else is going to help them, besides the community for which they’re telling these stories.
That’s why, despite the fact that I’m not a fountain of cash by any stretch of the imagination, I back kickstarters when I can. I know that the only way that the industry is ever going to turn on to Asian-America is that we need to show them that it’s a viable market. And how can we do that if we don’t have any product to sell?
Of course, I don’t think this plight is necessarily unique to the Asian-American community. It just so happens to be what I’m currently fighting, so I can’t stop talking about it. Haha. Yes.
That being said – we’ve got 24 hours left. Let’s. Do. This.