I'm delighted to be able to share the insights of filmmaker and actor Tyler Ham Pong. Like Christina (the most recent prior featured artist), Tyler has competed several times in the 72 Hour Shootout, consistently placing among the top films. Listen to a few words from Tyler here: https://youtu.be/UthXHnxPNgU and read on to hear his insights:
1. In a short paragraph, please tell us a little about yourself, your background and your work.
When I was 19 years old, I moved to the States from Canada to pursue acting. I was also interested in the storytelling process, so I honed my writing skills and produced theater on a shoestring. Later, I picked up a cheap flip cam and learned how to shoot and edit film, also on a shoestring. I think it’s important for an actor to branch out in that way. Learning about the mechanics of film definitely helped inform my performance.
2. What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of your work and why?
For me, the most challenging aspect is business. I never expected to spend as much time on marketing, networking, etc., and it can be huge drag when I just want to be creative. Alternatively, the most rewarding part of when all that business pays off and I can finally focus on creativity. But you know, it’s back and forth.
3. How do race and/or gender and/or diversity play into your work?
When writing, I try to be conscious of giving my characters depth that transcends race and gender, but it’s also very important for these characters to affected by their life experience. Even if it’s not on the surface, these factors are always in consideration.
4. What are the best and worst things that have happened to you, within the context of race or gender issues in entertainment, and what did you learn from them?
Being mixed ethnicity, some people don’t realize that I’m half Chinese and may say something derogatory. I’ve been in situations where I tell a person I’m half Chinese, and they respond with something like “Oh, but you don't have slanty eyes.” Nevertheless, I’ve found amazing support from the Asian American film community, who help others obtain a better understanding of the Asian American experience the larger and louder we become.
5. If you could share a single sentence of advice or insight for others in the entertainment business, what would it be?
Don't dream it, be it.
6. As you know, AAFL TV promotes works that seek to effectuate positive and constructive social change through the medium of film. Do you think filmmakers have an obligation to create diverse and/or morally and socially conscious content? Why or why not?
Film has always held a mirror to society, whether it be on purpose or inadvertently. If you tell a story that expresses your truth, it will always have an impact of social change.
6B. What are the biggest challenges you face as a filmmaker and how do you deal with them (please list only non-criminal means of dealing with said problems)?
Some of the biggest challenges are being heard and seen. I deal with them by creating my own opportunities and working hard to be noticed, whether I'm sending out e-mails or going beyond my field to expand my professional knowledge. I'll either come back to center, or find a new center.
7. What are the most sage words of advice you can offer to new and emerging filmmakers?
Get as much hands-on experience as you can. I made one of my first movies on a flip cam. Sound was non-existent, so on my next film I rented sound gear. Lighting was terrible, so on my next film I borrowed someone's soft boxes. Etc., etc.
8. Does your advice change at all if I ask you to focus on women and/or minority filmmakers? If so, why and how.
Not particularly. But depending on what type of movies you make, you have to know your audience and know how to reach them.
9. What is the single most fun moment you've experienced in the entertainment industry?
Whenever I look back at my work, I think about what I could have done better. So I think the most fun is the creative process. After everything's said and done, I want to apply what I've learned and make something else.
10. What is the single most obnoxious moment you've experienced in the entertainment industry?
I once filmed in a diner and the owner refused to turn off the music. He claimed that the sound system was "n*ggery... it doesn't work." After he left, we asked one of his staff to turn off the music and he did. This moment has and always will make me emotional. There are people who enjoy being part of the problem, and it's hard to change anyone's mind directly. Social change is a collective effort and it's important to find collaborators you trust and believe.
11. What lies ahead for you in terms of the entertainment biz?
Anything and everything.
12. What does the phrase "Ethical Is Beautiful Be Beautiful" mean to you and your work, if anything?
There is always an underlying tone of ethics in art. You may agree with the message or not, but as long as it creates discussion, you've added to an ongoing dialogue.