In anticipation of VAFF 18‘s totally original program Online Invasion, we caught up with Kevin Li (Little Ram Productions Inc.: HBICtv) and Stephen Dypiangco (Awesome Asian Bad Guys: Season 1), two of the web-trailblazers featured in this must-see collection of internet-TV. Online Invasion starts today at 3:00 PM!
Schema: For those who haven’t yet watched Awesome Asian Bad Guys or Ultra Rich Asian Girls, how would you describe them?
Stephen Dypiangco: Awesome Asian Bad Guys is an action comedy about two filmmakers and a volatile group of Asian bad guy actors who go on a crazy mission together.
Kevin Li: @HBICtv: (Ultra Rich Asian Girls) is a webseries that follows four daughters of affluent Chinese Canadians as they start their careers while vying for the position of “Hot Bitch in Charge”.
S: Nicely done! What did you hope to achieve in making Awesome Asian Bad Guys and Ultra Rich Asian Girls?
SD: To entertain audiences and celebrate the amazing Asian American actors who I grew up watching and admiring in action movies.
KL: Vancouver is now seeing a new trend in Chinese immigration, from the mainland. This show reflects the change in the faces of the community and give a voice to this demographic through 4 strong minded, unapologetic women.
S: Steven, who did you idolize growing up?
SD: Athletes like Magic Johnson were my childhood heroes. He was on top of his game and so much fun to watch.
S: Tell a bit about your how and when you knew you wanted to go into making episodic TV/online video?
KL: I’ve always worked at mainstream TV stations so I adapted that model to create programs I felt was lacking in current TV programming.
SD: Becoming a filmmaker became my dream in high school when I started watching lots of independent and classic films like The Godfather and The Graduate. They were so good and I became hooked.
S: Do you have a signature style to your work that makes it distinguishable from others’?
SD: My work has evolved over the years in ways I could have never predicted.
KL: As a Chinese Canadian, born and raised in Vancouver, I have deep passions for Chinese Canadian culture. All of my independent productions will have an element of Chinatown, lion dancing or Chinese Canadian history (or all of the above) in it.
S: Where do you draw your inspiration?
SD: Patrick Epino my filmmaking partner inspires me and pushes me to do good work. I hope I do the same for him.
KL: Ultra Rich Asian Girls is almost done like a documentary. I let everything unfold organically, and nothing is scripted. I come from 16 years in news, so this is a very natural way of telling a story for me.
S: Is there anything about your ethnicity, ancestry or heritage that you believe has influenced your vision or is perhaps attributable to your approach to filmmaking?
KL: I’ve been lion dancing with Hon Hsing Athletic Association for 22 years and it’s because their influence that I’ve grown to be embrace my heritage. It greatly reflects the person I am today and the work I have done.
S: What was your biggest hurdle in making this series? And how did you overcome it?
SD: The entire project from start to finish had major challenges. Casting, financing and producing each had difficult stretches. The way we got through these was teamwork. Our team was incredible.
KL: The biggest hurdle is dealing with discrimination from Canadians and Chinese Canadians. Mainland Chinese is the new “yellow peril” and it’s very sad to see some Asian Canadians who want to “send them back to China”, “learn English”, and “they’re so rude”. It’s almost like echoing sentiments the Chinese pioneers faced 100 years ago.
S: Through making Ultra Rich Asian Girls did you encounter any surprises along the way? Ones in which have helped you grow as a director?
KL: The biggest surprise is dealing with discrimination from Canadians and Chinese Canadians. Mainland Chinese is the new “yellow peril” and it’s very sad to see some Asian Canadians who want to “send them back to China”, “learn English”, and “they’re so rude”. It’s almost like echoing sentiments the Chinese pioneers faced 100 years ago. I believe more programming that reflects the changing face of our country is needed to ease the tension and promote understanding.
S: If there was anything you could do differently on your next project, what would it be?
SD: Give ourselves more time to experiment and explore along the way.
S: What advice would you give prospective TV/video-producers out there?
KL: Find a mentor. Find your passion. Find your character. Also, find sponsors!
SD: Start making content and sharing it. The best way to get better is to keep on building experience and learning from your mistakes.
S: We love VAFF. Why do you love VAFF?
SD: Because VAFF connects Asian films with audiences in an amazing city.
KL: VAFF is a voice, a song, an orchestra that is missing from the mainstream today. I love VAFF also because my buddy and I won the 2011 MAMM with our entry “Anti-versary”.