Among those creators who have proven that thoughtful, high quality original content can exist within the online video realm, Wong Fu Productions is at the top of the list. Made up of Philip Wang, Wesley Chan and Ted Fu, the independent filmmaking trio have been writing, producing and directing short films, music videos and web series together for the better part of a decade.
One of Wong Fu’s most popular and quintessential works, the 9-minute romantic short film “The Last” has drawn nearly 7 million views and inspired memorable parodies from Wassabi Productions and David So since being released last year. In addition to garnering a loyal fandom made up of those both in and outside the YouTube community, Wong Fu’s work has also netted attention from major companies like AT&T, which backed them on their six-part series “Away We Happened.” And then on top of all that, Wong Fu also has one of the most successful merchandise lines among all online creators in their Awkward Animals line of toys, accessories and T-shirts. Yup, Wong Fu is just that good.
Having just recently celebrated their 10 year anniversary and 2 millionth subscriber on YouTube, NMR sat down with Philip, Wesley and Ted at one of their recent tour stops to talk about their anniversary, their first official feature-length film, the themes they tackle and the people they cast.
Read the full interview below or visit the last page for the partial video interview
You guys celebrated your 10 year anniversary earlier this year. Does it feel like it’s been 10 years?
Wesley Chan: No. That’s the easy answer.
Philip Wang: No, it doesn’t. To think that we’ve been making videos and sharing them with people for 10 years, that’s a long time. I still feel like we’re newbies in this YouTube world. Even though we’re the old guys now, we’re still trying to figure everything out like everyone else because it’s constantly changing. Even though we’ve been here a while, I feel like the playing field is constantly changing so everyone’s new at the same time.
Wesley: I remember 2006 and 2007 right after we graduated very clearly, and I remember yesterday pretty clear, and then everything in between that is kind of a blur. I can’t put my finger on certain events or certain releases but I do remember the beginning of it. That’s why it doesn’t feel that long is because I can remember when we started.
So you guys have been sharing videos for quite a long time. Do you consider yourselves “YouTubers”?
Ted Fu: Uh, yes and no. That’s the best answer we can get. We’re not YouTubers because the videos we make on YouTube are not the conventional type of YouTube videos, at least for the most part.
Philip: I think when most people think YouTube, they think 30-second, some home video, funny thing that happened — a crotch shot, a cat video — so something really short and funny, or the exact opposition which is like an hour long “Minecraft” play-by-play. And somehow we’re making 10 minute short films, romantic dramas, sketches. Sometimes we joke about how we feel like we don’t really belong on YouTube, not like we’re above it, but in the sense that we’re the weirdos that –
Ted: Well, the content that we’re putting out is very different from other people’s typical YouTube videos.
Philp: We’re astonished that we are still existing on YouTube. I guess that people have been watching and supporting our work because all other trends and fads and strategies of YouTube point to something like us not existing on that site.
Wesley: Depending on who we talk to, who we are kind of changes. Sometimes we’re filmmakers, sometimes were YouTubers, sometimes we make stuffed animals. It’s all over the place. So sometimes at film festivals, we’ll feel more like filmmakers, I guess, or we want to be seen that way. But then when we’re with our friends, the community of YouTubers, then we’re YouTubers. But I think it’s all blending into one and the same anyway, which is what we want to do — not really have that distinction of you’re YouTube only, you’re filmmaking only. It should be you’re creative and you’re using whatever’s available to you to share that.
Philip: Also when we first started, we were in college and there was no YouTube, so at that time we were definitely not YouTubers. We were just some guys from UC San Diego that were making videos and putting them online. And the term “online video” was still very new and very strange to people, and we were part of that early phase. And then once YouTube came around, I guess that’s when we became “YouTubers.” We were actually pretty late joining the YouTube world, community. We were just using it as free bandwidth for a while. Then we saw people promoting their channels, and we’re like, “We should probably do the same. We should probably say ‘subscribe’ and ask for ratings,” back when you could rate. So we didn’t even start doing that until 2008 or something.