LA Asian Pacific Film Festival: Interview with Justin Chon

Justin Chon [L] and Genesia Ting [R]

Justin Chon [L] and Genesia Ting [R]

I was able to speak with Justin Chon on Friday, April 24th to discuss his upcoming comedic film Man Up.  Justin is known for his appearances in multiple Twilight movies, 21 and Over, and Revenge of the Green Dragon.  He is also constantly uploading new material such as vlogs and short films to his YouTube channel.

Congratulations on your new movie Man Up!  Where will your fans be able to see this movie?

Justin: Thank you!  This company “Lakeshore” just bought it, and we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to release it.  I think it’s going to be early summer, and you can buy it digitally.  

Who’s idea was it to make this movie?  How did the idea come about?

Justin: It was me and Kev’s [Kevin Wu] idea.  At the time, I broke up with a girl that had a kid, and Kevin told me a story about how he dated a Mormon girl in high school, so we just thought like, “what would have happened if Kevin had gotten his Mormon girlfriend pregnant?”  And so that was like the inception of the idea, and then we developed it.  We thought like, “oh, are these characters smart or dumb?”  We decided it would be funnier if they were dumb.  Some of our inspirations included Bill and Ted’s and also Dumb and Dumber.  But yeah, it’s kind of like homage 90’s comedy.  

You and Kevin Wu worked on Hang Loose back in 2012, how was the production of Man Up similar or different from Hang Loose?

Justin: The budget was bigger, and this time around, I directed it.  We had a lot more input, like we were driving the car, steering the ship this time around.  Hang Loose I think was more of – you know, I was just acting in that, and Kevin didn’t really have that much say in it.

What was the hardest part about filming Man Up in your opinion?

Justin: I think because of the budget, you know, there’s always budget constraints, that’s a difficulty.  I think a lot of it has to do with the money aspect of it, the toughest part.  Not being able to have time to shoot stuff was hard too.

What goals are you hoping to accomplish with this film?

Justin: Hopefully, other Asian American teens can relate to it.  I think we only mention once or twice that we’re Asian, it’s not even a deal.  That’s why we set it in Hawaii because Hawaii has such a huge Asian American population.  I hope that the movie will show that we exist, and that it’s not such a, you know, there’s all different types of Asian kids.  Not everyone is just like, a smart nerd, but also there’s dumb people like us! [laughs] Hopefully it inspires other people to write and create their own stories, and tell the stories that they want to tell, even if it’s from an Asian American standpoint.

Going on that, I find it fitting to ask, since this is the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival – what kinds of challenges or discrimination do you receive as an Asian American filmmaker or actor?

Justin: Oh, all the time.  I mean, from a filmmaker standpoint, a lot of times, it’s hard to get money for your film.  They’re like, “well, who’s going to buy this?”  Well, do you not know that Asian Americans have the highest disposable income?  They actually spend money on movies and food, going out and stuff.  They’re consumers.  That’s a big challenge, the money aspect.  From the story aspect, they’re like, “well who’s going to be interested in this?”  There’s plenty of people interested in this!  Obviously, like even with Kevjumba’s YouTube channel, many people watched it.  There’s a market for it.  And I think that’s a big challenge with being an Asian American filmmaker.  From an Asian American actor standpoint, they want to pigeonhole you, they want to type cast you.  I’m really gated to certain roles pretty often, like the best friend, the techie, or the side guy.  And you know, I understand.  I mean, we’re still a minority.  But I think it’s changing.  It just will take time, but eventually, we’ll have our time in the sun.

What advice do you have for fans who are aspiring filmmakers?

Justin: Just do it.  Don’t wait for anyone to give you permission, don’t wait for someone to give you the money, just figure out a way and start making content.  Because you’ll learn as you go, and you’ll make your mistakes, but you’ll learn.

You just recently got back into YouTube, with a lot of new vlogging, so how has your style changed from before?

Justin: Well, I got married!  That’s the biggest thing.  So, it’s kind of like, you know, YouTube for me now – well I originally started YouTube because of Kevin.  He was just like, really pushing me to do it, and I was like “okay.”  But you know, I’m first and foremost an actor, and I think that, now, YouTube is more of a video diary for me.  Me and my wife can go and do stuff, record it.  She’s actually the one that edits everything, takes care of a lot of stuff.  It gives her some fun stuff to do.  It’s like a little video diary that we can look back one-two-three years from now.  Hopefully, people enjoy our journey, and can relate to certain things.  That’s why we’ve been putting up some stuff, like, “What I hate and like about you.”  I’m sure certain people feel the same way, you know?  We just want people to share our journey with us, which is like a really cool thing.

I think a lot of fans are wondering where Kevjumba has gone.  Has he fallen off the face of the Earth?

Justin: He’s still on Earth. [laughs]  You know, you have to realize that Kevin became famous on YouTube when he was like, sixteen.  So he’s never really had like time to himself, and I really feel like he does need this time to explore himself and try new things, and just to figure out who he is – so he can be a human being rather than just a whole YouTube personality.  I know everybody misses him, and everybody loves him and stuff.  But, if they really do, they just need to give him time and space for him to allow him time to make mistakes or to go on these journeys to experience things for himself, not for his fans.  I think it’s a really healthy thing for him to do.  With the trip he’s going on, right now, is all necessary in the big scheme of things.

Any last comments about Man Up?

Justin: We’re going to be releasing it digitally.  I think there will be select theatre screenings, but digitally, we’re planning to release it sometime early summer.  Show us some love!  It’s a funny movie.

Genesia Ting

About Genesia Ting

Genesia Ting is a product designer by day and concert photographer by evening. She enjoys discovering new eateries in the Los Angeles area, hiking by the coast, and exploring different parts of LA.
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