Wong Fu’s Philip Wang on the Inspiration Behind Long-Form ‘To Those Nights’ Film [INTERVIEW]

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From left: Phillip Wang, Ted Fu, Wesley Chan

Just this week, Wong Fu released their newest production “To Those Nights,” a short film that tells the stories of three young adults and the emotional clarity they experience during nights of drunkenness. Wong Fu Productions — started in 2003 by Philip Wang, Wesley Chan and Ted Fu — has made a name for itself on YouTube through its light-hearted comedy skits and romantic short films. “To Those Nights” is a complete departure from Wong Fu’s traditional content and is the first of its films to include swearing and alcohol. The film features big names such as Janel Parrish of “Pretty Little Liars” and “21 and Over’s” Justin Chon, who act alongside YouTube’s own Meghan Camarena aka “Stawburry17,” Graham Fenton, Karalynn Dunton and Justin James Hughes. The film’s writer and director Philip Wang shared with NMR his intentions behind the characters of “To Those Nights,” his response to viewers comments about alcohol use and what he hopes people take from his film.

What was the inspiration behind each of the three stories? Why not tie up all the stories with a happy ending?

Philip Wang: Ultimately each story’s inspiration comes from personal experience in some way. I’ve never cheated or anything, but we’ve all had emotional thoughts while under the influence, right? I had considered having all three connect to each other somehow at the end, but I preferred to keep them separate. I felt like it was more realistic that way. There are so many people in this world, and while in some way we can all be connected, I liked it better as just random individuals. Ultimately they are sort of connected through the closing monologue though; explaining each story is a certain experience or stage on the journey to finding happiness.

This video is very different from your other videos both in length and content (I enjoyed the swearing quite a bit). Why did you decide to depart from the norm in “To Those Nights”?

Our content already skews longer when compared to a typical YouTube video. We’re lucky that we’ve been able to survive in this landscape with the type and length of content we produce. Our fans are very open to our work, and we like to show them that not all YouTube videos need to be two minutes or less and make you laugh in the first 10 seconds (although we love to make those videos too). We’re always trying to push and test our boundaries, and 17 minutes is definitely doing that. In a sense we’re also seeing if our audience is ok with longer forms. We’ve already seen that they can sit through 10-14 minute videos as part of our past web series, and our most watched video is actually 16 minutes long (12 million views). So it’s nice to see that there is still a place for long-form content on YouTube; as long as it’s good, people will commit and watch.

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What do you want viewers to take away from the video?

I want viewers to really understand the ultimate messages. Most of our viewers are younger and going through stages of feeling like they’re never going to find love or it’s too hard. I’ve been there, and this video is encouragement to let them know it just takes time. You have to go through some really awkward weird years for a while before understanding yourself, others and what you truly want. It’s a messy process, but you’ll get there eventually; we all will, I’d like to think.

Although you state in the blog post about the video that viewers should not focus on the alcohol consumed but rather the unexpected emotional states of each character, some comments drew attention to the fact that under the influence many people become angry or depressed rather than more self-aware. What comment do you have to these viewers?

I definitely know that’s how some people get, and that’s definitely not something we’re encouraging. I believe that drinking just enhances whatever state you are already in deep inside. If you are angry, it’s going to come out. Hopefully this video can, like I mentioned earlier, be encouragement to not be angry, but find ways to believe in yourself, or your situation. But really, this video isn’t about what drinking does to people and if it’s good or bad. It’s about these people’s stories and how alcohol affected them. Maybe we’ll do another short that shows the belligerent possibilities and how to deal with that.

Why did you decide to make the video 17 minutes long? What has the response been to the length and the video itself?

The response has been great so far to the length. Many people say they didn’t even realize 17 minutes went by. Wong Fu really believes that if the content is engaging enough, no one will complain about the length. Our fans are usually asking for more and longer stories anyway, so this is a great reinforcement to that goal. Also, length of videos is all about expectations. Most people can sit down on Hulu or Netflix and watch TV episodes for hours on end, but for some reason on YouTube, 30 seconds is the chopping block. Why? Because YouTube gives you that expectation of short quick fixes. But logging into Hulu you expect to have to give an episode of a show 10 minutes, a full episode, or even several episodes before you decide if you like it or not. Wong Fu is just trying to bring that perception over to our channel, and for the most part, it’s been successful. Quick videos still reign supreme, and we could definitely grow faster with snappier videos, but at the end of the day, we make what we want to make and tell the stories we want to tell without constraints. We have to be authentic, and if people want to follow along, we’re very grateful.

In other Wong Fu news:

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