An Open Letter to the Children of America About the Importance of Diversity in the Media

Here at YOMYOMF, we value the feedback from loyal readers like yourselves. That’s why when several of you suggested we try to write blogs that were more educational and blogs that could teach and inspire our youth, I thought—yes, that is a good and noble idea. So I vow to take this suggestion to heart and post more blogs…for the children.

And in that spirit—today, I write about an issue that is not only dear to my heart, but that is also very important in the multicultural society we live in…the lack of diversity in the mainstream media. And particularly in film and television. Furthermore, I’ll discuss this subject in a way that will allow even the youngest and stupidest child to understand. And further furthermore, in order to make sure everything I write is accurate and appropriate, I have asked a representative from a well-respected teachers’ organization to read over this post and make any necessary corrections. So let’s fucking do this! So let us proceed in the proper manner…

Dear Children:

I know the concept of diversity in film/TV may be difficult for your young and innocent minds to comprehend so I have come up with a way to explain things so that you can fully understand this complex issue.

Think of a Hollywood movie studio or a television network as a cupcake factory. We all love cupcakes, right? In fact, they’re pretty damn awesome! But let’s say these cupcake factories only made vanilla cupcakes.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I love vanilla cupcakes! I love them so much that I’ve often paid good money to have three or four vanilla cupcakes come home with me. But no matter how good vanilla cupcakes might be, if they were the only kind of cupcakes the cupcake factories made, it would be bad for everyone.

First of all, think about all the other yummy cupcakes you would be missing out on: the chocolate cupcakes, the banana cupcakes and…uh…the Hispanic cupcakes.

Each of these cupcakes are delicious in their own way. The chocolate cupcakes have a taste that can best be described as sassy and in yo face and often goes well with fried chicken and orange soda. While the banana cupcakes have a more reserved and uptight flavor, although the chink in their armor is that you’re often hungry again in an hour. As for the Hispanic cupcakes, they’re just as good as the other cupcakes but cost a whole lot less because there’s just so many of them and they’re all out of work and are here illegally and just loiter on street corners all day drinking beer waiting for…What? Excuse me?

The teacher’s organization rep is telling me that there may be some things in my previous paragraph that may be deemed…inappropriate. Huh? Really? I guess if you say so, you’re the expert and all…anyway, I apologize, children. The point I’m trying to make is that these cupcakes may look and taste different, but they’re all equally wonderful.

For example, I know some guys who really love banana cupcakes. Now, these are guys you’d think would normally be into vanilla cupcakes, but they just can’t get enough of the banana ones. They love them so much that they’ll save all their money so they can take a special vacation to Thai…er—I mean the place where banana cupcakes originate just so they can stuff their mouths and other orifices with banana cupcakes 24/7. And in this special place where banana cupcakes originate, some of the banana cupcakes aren’t even really cupcakes. They’re actually fruitcakes “disguised” as cupcakes, but they look so much like cupcakes that…What? Sorry, it’s the teacher’s rep person again.

What do you mean the word “fruitcakes” can have a negative connotation in this context? How can a delicious dessert treat have a negative connotation in any context? You know what—fine! I’ll re-word things in a more “appropriate” fashion.

[caption id=”attachment_87419” align=”aligncenter” width=”400” caption=”Banana cupcake or fruitcake in disguise?”][/caption]

So children, some of these banana cupcakes are actually transvestite or “ladyboy” cupcakes and…now what?! Fuck me I can’t say that either?! OK, fine, I’ll move on.

The other point I want to make, children, is that it’s actually good business for the cupcake factories to make other cupcakes besides just the vanilla ones. The factory owners may think that the public has no interest in chocolate cupcakes or banana cupcakes or Hispanic…What? I can’t say that now either? Then what am I supposed to call them? There’s no cupcake equivalent to the Hispanic thing? I mean I guess I can refer to them as brown cupcakes but that’s a little racist, don’t you think?

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that there is an ever-growing appetite and audience for all types of cupcakes. And if the factory owners decided to invest more in these other cupcakes, I’m sure they’d see their profit margins increase.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with vanilla cupcakes. In fact, some of my favorite cupcakes are vanilla. But…hmm, now that I think about it, vanilla cupcakes are a little bland. And have you ever noticed that when you walk into a cupcake shop, all the vanilla cupcakes are usually in the front of the display case and all the colored cupcakes are in the back? What the fuck is up with that?! I mean do the vanilla cupcakes think they’re “superior” than all the other cupcakes? I bet they do. Fuck that shit! And fuck them vanilla cupcakes!

Children, here’s what I want you to do—take all the vanilla cupcakes you can find and shove them down your garbage disposal—get them in there really tight! And then turn on that motherfuckin’ switch and just laugh and laugh and laugh while you watch those racist cracker cupcakes get shredded and diced into—

Actually, what I meant to say is—every cupcake is different but delicious all the same. And that is why diversity in the mainstream media is important. Thank you, children.

[caption id=”attachment_87422” align=”aligncenter” width=”400” caption=”Can’t we all just get along?”][/caption]

Add Your Own Caption: Train in Vain Edition

If you’re not already following us on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, you’re missing out on a lot of extras you won’t find here on our blog including updates on various Offender-related projects (like the most recent updates about our upcoming YOMYOMF Network on YouTube) and silly, fun things like “Add Your Own Caption.” This is where we post an image we find online or that our readers forward to us and ask you to write an appropriate caption to accompany that image. And we’ll feature some of the captions here.

And the featured caption for this week comes from reader Leslie McNair Jackson:

[caption id=”attachment_87394” align=”aligncenter” width=”400” caption=”Do these pants make my butt look big?”][/caption]

So check out our Facebook page for future editions of “Add Your Own Caption”, write your own caption and/or “like” the ones you think are worthy and we may share them here.

Thanks to Leslie and all our readers who are engaging with us on our social media. Have a great weekend!

Remember Utopia?

At Design Within Reach (aka Design Out Of Reach) you can buy a George Nelson reproduction ball clock for $300.

You can tune in to Mad Men and revel in the mid-century modernism of Manhattan.

That glorious era, the apex of American design and styling, has been hip for many years – it certainly was when I was in architecture school, years ago, but somewhere between the overpriced clocks and countless coffee tables books, the idealism, the utopianism, the passion and the hope of the original movement has been lost.

I know, I know: unalloyed utopianism in these post-post-modern times? You’d have better luck finding a flock of dodo birds nesting in your front yard.

In January of 1945, John Entenza, the editor of Arts and Architecture magazine, published a not-so-humble five page announcement in which he stated the magazine would sponsor the construction of eight post-war houses in Southern California.

With that the Case Study House Program was born, and it had as its mission nothing less than the complete revamping of the single family American house.

"Whether that answer is to be the ‘miracle’ house remains to be see," wrote Entenza, "but it is our guess that after all of the witches have stirred up the broth, the house that will come out of the vapors will be conceived within the spirit of the vapors of our time….best suited to the expression of man’s life in the modern world."

That, and put in enough closets.

This new architecture was to celebrate the prefab materials developed for the war effort, become affordable to the American Everyman in the process, blur the stodgy old lines between inside and outside, and be equipped with all manner of modern appliance to give the housewife ample time to hang out the laundry on a sunny California afternoon while waiting for her husband to helicopter in from a long day of work for that first martini.

“Because most opinion, both profound and light-headed, in terms of post war housing is nothing but speculation…it occurs to us that it might be a good idea to get down to cases,” continued Entenza, “on a ‘put-up or shut-up basis.’”

“Put up or shut up?” This respectable, professional man was cursing the equivalent of a Chris Rock routine in 1945 to exhort architects to stop talking and start building.

“Perhaps we will cling longest to the symbol of ‘house’ as we have known it,” mused Entenza, “or perhaps we will realize that in accommodating ourselves to a new world the most important step in avoiding retrogression into the old, is a willingness to understand and to accept contemporary ideas in the creation of environment that is responsible for shaping the largest part of our living and thinking.”

That’s right. Entenza and many others believed, as do I, that the containers we live in have the power to shape our living and thinking.

Call it what you will: good mojo, feng shui, nice bones, that calming koi pond out back.

[caption id=”attachment_86625” align=”alignnone” width=”400” caption=”Try not to stare at the car. Well, stare at it, then stare at the house.”][/caption]

That (naïve?) belief in progress and perfectibility, as much as the gorgeous, sexy snapshots of mid-century homes we were shown in school, turned me on since I first saw that jaw dropping black and white photo of Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #22 way back when.

Here it is again, in color.

[caption id=”attachment_86627” align=”alignnone” width=”400” caption=”Oh look, here’s me playing with my kids in my dream house (they’re crying only because they just realized this is daddy’s daydream, and not reality.)”][/caption]

And here are two more of daddy’s daydreams:

[caption id=”attachment_86630” align=”alignnone” width=”400” caption=”tuesday’s guest”][/caption]

[caption id=”attachment_86629” align=”alignnone” width=”400” caption=”wednesday’s guest”][/caption]

So successful was the program that it continued until 1962 and eventually over twenty sublime houses were built. As to their practicality, price and replicability, I don’t know much. I do know that I’ve looked at the Eames house in person, and driven past a few others, and they look as modern, fresh, and hopeful as they did 60 odd years ago.

When Winston Churchill was prime minister and was told that there were going to have to be major cuts in arts and culture because of the mounting costs of world war II, he responded simply: “Then what are we fighting for?”

[caption id=”attachment_86689” align=”alignnone” width=”400” caption=”a moment of silence, please, as we acknowledge that these designers have indeed made the world a better place.”][/caption]

The Perfect Tool for Chinese Pickpockets? Chopsticks!

As the following video shows, eating your food is just one of the many functions of the chopstick. And apparently, the proper response to seeing pickpockets stealing from people using their chopsticks is not to call the police, but to videotape them and provide running commentary:

http://youtu.be/4WmvaFbPxxs

(via Boing Boing)

‘Sunset Stories’ Stories: Why Micro-Budget Films are so Damn Important & Everyone Should Make One

Ernesto’s back to write about his new film SUNSET STORIES, which will have its World Premiere at SXSW on Saturday. The film’s executive produced by our own Justin Lin (with Sung Kang starring) and the first feature to go out under our YOMYOMF Films banner. Ernesto will be sharing his journey with the film on a regular basis. 

From my previous and only entry, I had this grand plan of blogging on the experience of making micro-budget films, going into detail using my first feature SUNSET STORIES as an example and chronicling our long journey up to our premiere – then the realities of micro-budget reared its ugly head and set in.

In a matter of about two weeks we had to finish the picture edit, re-write, re-record and edit in the voice over, prepare titles and title animation, have a new score composed, color correct the picture, edit the music sound, sound mix and finally playback to our screening tape. This doesn’t even mention the publicity and promotions materials and logistics of making the festival screening happen. I won’t bore you with those details. In all, it was a Herculean task, to say the least, especially with what little budget we had left.

Again, we were scrambling, begging, pleading and promising our first born to anyone that would help us. And as of yesterday, everything is finished. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve experienced in my whole life, and the only thing running in my head, over and over again: I WILL NEVER EVER DO THIS SHIT AGAIN.

The pain of making a film is what I imagine giving birth would be (and if I’m wrong or way off base I deeply apologize to all the mothers out there – it’s a loose analogy). But once again, many, many people dived right in to help us make it to the finish line.

[caption id=”attachment_86718” align=”aligncenter” width=”400” caption=”HARD AT WORK IN THE MIXING STAGE, TODD AO, BURBANK (L to R) Timo Chen (Composer), Joe Dzuban (Sound Mixer) Peter Brown (Sound Guru), JinHae Park (Dialog Editor) Paul Seradarian ( FX Editor, not shown)”][/caption]

Then while watching our playback to tape, it hit me why it was all worth it. These small personal micro-budget films are essential for us to exist on the screen. There was a great article from the writer of Spike Lee’s REDHOOK, James McBride, eloquently pointed out in an open letter:

“Nothing in this world happens unless white folks says it happens.”

With SUNSET STORIES we were able to create a film with diverse characters in a narrative where we have power and agency. It is a fairy tale where marginalized characters can be anyone they want, even the princess and the prince. Micro-budget films allow us to make the shift where we no longer have to serve a purpose as “people of color.” We don’t have to explain our existence and we can just be who we are – living, breathing, three-dimensional people who are part of society. Okay, off the soapbox.

I’m packing the car and heading off to Austin and I’ll continue to blog on the road. Hopefully, I will be able to include Q&As with actors and filmmakers who can share their war stories while making micro-budget films. I’ll also update everyone about the premiere of the film in SXSW so stay tuned because it’s only two days away!

ON THE OFFENSIVE: Film Festival Edition

We’re just days away from the world premiere of Sunset Stories, the feature length YOMYOMF Films debut from co-director Ernesto Foronda (writer/producer Better Luck Tomorrow) and starring Offender Sung Kang, at the South by Southwest Festival (screening info here). So it’s fitting that this week’s podcast features Offenders Justin Lin, Anderson Le, Jimmy Tsai (and occasional appearances by Philip Chung) talking about the latest at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals as well as the festival world in general and how it has changed in the last decade.

Click here to check it out.

And if you’re at SXSW, come out to Sunset Stories and say hello.

Downton Abbey Rap

God, I love this show. If you haven’t watched Masterpiece Classics’ Downton Abbey, broadcast on PBS in the US, then you’re missing one heck of an addicting show. I recently got caught up, thanks to Netflix and a recent marathon on TV and I am way so damn hooked on this show. And apparently, there are millions of fans as well.

One of them is comic book rapper Adam WarRock, who does a kickass, thumpin’ ode to this kick ass show (and yes, calling a British show about a rich Earl, his family and their help staff during the turn of the 20th Century “kick ass” may be incongruous but I’m sticking to my guns). It definitely has a Lazy Sunday vibe to it, doesn’t it?[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-WoF9jPHZo[/youtube]And if you haven’t seen Downton Abbey yet, then get to it!

(Via Angry Asian Man)

My Asian American Soundtrack

“Some parts of America are still very racist,” said Daniel Park, the filmmaker and social media chief for Far East Movement over a Soon Dubu meal in Koreatown. “We got posts about how some people said they really liked Far East’s music but as soon as they found out that they were Asian they weren’t interested. When you listen to Far East Movement’s music, you really can’t tell they’re Asian. But then it became a different matter when some people found out they were Asian…”

Daniel’s comment stuck in my mind right before I started making White Frog (premiering this week at the SF International Asian American Film Fest). And that comment made me even more psyched and excited to continue my unofficial Asian American soundtrack project that I started on The People I’ve Slept With. With White Frog, I was proudly and fully able to put the entire soundtrack of diverse genres and sounds from Christian rock to hip hop with entirely Asian American artists.

When the script called for a dance sequence, I immediately thought of MC Jin who is the pioneering Asian American talent in hip hop. During preproduction, I asked my music supervisor cum assistant Kevyn Fong to call up Asian American guru Carl Choi and secure a track from MC Jin that we would choreograph a dance piece to. We picked MC Jin’s “Brand New Day” and that became the centerpiece of the soundtrack.

http://youtu.be/1TPPDYE3Zhg

If we had an Asian American hip-hop song, we also had to have an Asian American choreographer. I was following L.A. choreographer Kyle Hanagami on Youtube and thought he would be the perfect candidate. In fact, I thought wouldn’t it be nice if he also danced in it? So I Facebooked Hangami and was on-board.

http://youtu.be/DTPPn9DyDfc

In preproduction, Kevyn and I went on the hunt for Asian American pop tracks, and he found Gowe whom I thought was incredibly amazing sounding—a mix of rap and electronic pop. So we got “Star in My Eye.”

http://youtu.be/mMqsMh81rkU

And I remember Shin-B, the Korean American rapper whom I met at the Japanese American Museum years ago when she handed me the first CD that she made.

We gotta get Shin-B! So Kevyn contacted her. She remembered me and sent us a bunch of tracks and we snatched “Buzzkillin.” I love her voice and her attitude.

http://youtu.be/mWut3hZnxOs

Chris Lee, our producer, had a connection with David Choi and we met him and he was the coolest and most giving guy.

Of course we gotta get a track from this insanely prolific and talented artist and it ended up being the “Missing Piece.”

On the set of The People I’ve Slept With, Karen Anna Cheung introduced me to Big Phony’s music (aka Bobby Choi) in her trailer as she handed me the earphones of her walkman. I fell in love with Big Phony’s sound immediately and used a couple of his tracks in People.

http://youtu.be/-sQ8Lq5S-M4

In White Frog, I decided to use his tracks as the ever-present voice of Chaz (played by Harry Shum Jr.). Big Phony almost sounds like Elliot Smith with a happier and more Christian vibe. And full on emo!

http://youtu.be/ZMxq62YvdQw

On People, I was introduced to Paperdoll whose lead singer Teresa Lee was friends with both my executive producers Brian Yang on People and David Henry Hwang on White Frog. Teresa recommended “Silent” which provided a more alternative rock sound to the soundtrack that I had been missing.

From Craig’s list, I met Cribabi’s Yukari Fujiu who started a band with Andy Cox, the ex-guitarist of Fine Young Cannibals.

http://youtu.be/6PjSGEabsmM

When I heard “Gloria,” I was immediately rocking out and I thought we really needed that in our soundtrack. We needed something that would rock people out!

During the production, I learned that Booboo Stewart and his sister Fivel were musicians. One day, Nils, his dad, played their music in his Escalade when we were driving to skid row to shoot a scene and I thought “Just So Right” would inject the right teen spirit into the soundtrack.

http://youtu.be/wsEqRQEJ0eM

In post-production with this idea of the Asian American soundtrack, I was looking for a couple more tracks and started scouring ChannelAPA.com which proved to be the best source for Asian American music videos.

I found Iammedic and thought their sound, a mix of rap and techno, would give the soundtrack that perfect party vibe that we were missing.

“Kevyn, do you really know them?” I called Kevyn Fong.

“Yeah, I just met them and I was going to work with them on something,” said Kevyn,

“Can you ask them if we can get a couple tracks from them for our soundtrack?”

“Sure!”

As a teenager, I would almost always listen to the soundtrack of a movie at a record store before even seeing the movie. I would fall in love with so many movies just by listening to their soundtracks and looking at their posters. So given the opportunity in this amazing electronic and cyber age, I naturally jumped at the opportunity of putting my own soundtrack together. My Asian American soundtrack.