When Alec Sahagian (Sr.) and Janelle Vo (Sr.) announced the speakers for the Wednesday, November 13 Speaker Series, the Facebook event exploded into a frenzy of disbelief and “fangirling.” Charlene Huang (Jr.) posted, “Is anyone crying tears of joy because Wong Fu is coming to our school?!?!” With almost 400 people planning to attend on Facebook alone, the event quickly became one of the most anticipated Speaker Series at University High School (UHS). On the day of the actual event, the theater was full before the first office hours bell rang, and the gym, which had a live stream from the theater, filled up as well.
Wong Fu Productions (WFP) is a Southern California-based production company started by Philip Wang, Ted Fu and Wesley Chan. With over 1.9 million subscribers on YouTube, they have built a large and loyal fan base over the years. They produce short films, skits and music videos.
“This is the first high school we’ve been to in six years, so this is actually pretty special to us,” said Chan. UHS is their second stop on their 2013 Fall Tour with other stops including the San Diego Asian Film Festival, UCI, Cornell University, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania and finishing with the Arcadia Performing Arts Center on December 5.
“When we were thinking of speakers, we were thinking of inviting big name speakers and Wong Fu came up. We invited them, not believing we’d be able to book them. But we both really enjoyed watching their videos, and we admired their charity work. Plus we knew a lot of people at UHS would get excited if we could actually book them,” said Vo.
“Janelle and I initially invited them to come speak for Charity Week because we were familiar with their philanthropic efforts. When they said they were unable to come on the day we proposed, we invited them to come at a later date because we believed that their message would be valuable year-round. After a couple of negotiations and string-pulling, we booked a date!” said Sahagian.
Wang, Fu and Chan began producing videos together back in 2004 when the three met in a visual arts class they were taking at University of California, San Diego. “We met the same way you guys would in class,” said Chan.
After they graduated in 2006, they moved to Los Angeles to pursue full-time filmmaking. When they went on tour for the first time in 2006, they met fans and supporters in real life and began to see how important WFP was.
“One of the most important things to say is that we didn’t have Wong Fu Productions figured out, even years later, even after we graduated. We were still kind of starting, and we were trying to figure out what YouTube was going to be, and what we were going to do with it,” said Wang.
In 2007, they made a short series called “Just a Nice Guy”, which inspired their clothing line “Nice Guy”. As they gained even more fans, they started collaborating with other famous YouTubers to truly get involved in the YouTube community. By working with David Choi, Kevin Wu (kevjumba), Ryan Higa (nigahiga), Cathy Nguyen and others, Wong Fu’s online presence grew rapidly.
When asked for advice for aspiring actors, Chan said, “First of all, the path we took was very different. But I guess I would say to put yourself out there as much as you can. Keep practicing; try to collaborate as much as you can. The more you work, the better you know your own style.” Wang said, “The [film] industry has a lot of fake people. Be careful, keep good company, and make sure you’re around good people.”
“Take this time now and in college to explore and find your passion. I know your parents might tell you what to do and your friends might be doing something else, but you have time to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. Once you graduate, you’ll have a better idea of who you are,” said Chan. Fu said, “We also don’t want to glorify ‘having a passion’ because not everyone has a passion. I’m still struggling to find my passion.”
Throughout the event, the three stressed that their journey has not been as glamorous or smooth as it may seem. “It’s not easy,” said Chan. “Actually, nothing in the arts is easy.”
After visiting UHS, Wong Fu visited Lollicup in Diamond Jamboree for a meet-and-greet and spoke at UCI in the evening.
Christine Chen, one of Wong Fu’s assistant producers, tweeted, “Everything hurts, but it was so fun today in Irvine! Thanks to everyone who came out. Let’s do it again soon <3 #iheartmeetngreetdays”
Written by ELYSIA OUYANG