When we came up with this idea we thought it would be something fun to talk about on our National Film Society YouTube channel. So we made a short 2-minute YouTube video called “Awesome Asian Bad Guys” in which we celebrated the multitude of Asian bad guys in TV and movie history. At the end of the video, we tossed out the idea of making a web series with Asian bad guy actors as the heroes. It would be like “The Expendables,” but with Asian villains in the spotlight.
READ MORE: 10 Reasons You Should Make a Web Series (Instead of an Indie Film)
After we released the clip and got some great responses, we thought to ourselves, “we should really do this.”
Here’s what we did next:
1. Enlisted great producers – who were the right fit
Up to that point, we had worked together for several months making online content, but from our previous filmmaking experiences, we knew we would need the help of some talented and resourceful producers. We brought on Milton Liu, who also penned the “Awesome Asian Bad Guys” script, Diana Williams and Phil Yu, who is the man behind the wildly popular Angry Asian Man blog. Phil’s huge audience matches the audience we wanted to reach, so it was one of those rare occurrences in which we as filmmakers were able to collaborate with an online influencer who fit perfectly with the story we were trying to tell.
Everyone brought a wealth of talent and ideas to the team. Milton is an excellent producer who gets things done, but he also knew both me and Stephen well enough to hit the right comedic tone in his writing. Diana had a wealth of transmedia experience, which was a big part of our original plan. Phil loves the same movies we do and was able to share that passion with us and his audience. This team of producers boosted our strength, giving us more manpower to get stuff done and much more credibility.
2. Built momentum through casting
Having a strong team in place allowed us to reach out to some of our favorite actors. We had previously made YouTube videos with Randall Park (“The Interview”), Dante Basco (“Hook”) and Aaron Takahashi (“The Wedding Ringer”), so after discussing our plans with them individually, they willingly got on board for the ride. We had also met with Al Leong (“Die Hard”), and he joined as well. It became a snowball effect with each actor on board adding to the legitimacy of our offbeat idea. Tamlyn Tomita (“The Joy Luck Club”), Yuji Okumoto (“The Karate Kid, Part 2”) and George Cheung (“Rambo 2″”) rounded out the ensemble. It took a lot of hard work and pitching, but before we knew it, we had our cast.
3. Raised money and awareness through Kickstarter
We decided we were going to raise money via Kickstarter and we set the goal at $50,000. Why that amount? We’re not quite sure. It was just a nice round number, and we thought we could make the project with that budget. Through our social media channels, and especially through Phil’s blog, we did everything we could to increase and maintain awareness. We created YouTube videos, made ridiculous graphics, wrote guest blog posts and livestreamed webathons via Google Hangouts where we interacted with fans and did things like take shots of alcohol in exchange for Kickstarter pledges.
4. Hired a talented and dedicated crew
As a low-budget production, it is often very hard to attract crew members with solid experience. But because we had a cool concept that really spoke to people, we were able to get people on board who were excited to be part of this action-comedy homage to Asian bad guys. We reached out to our various contacts and brought together a crew that was not only extremely capable, but also super into the project. Nasar our DP, Justin our 1st AD, Ray and Valen our sound team, Sunny Sun our fight coordinator who had worked on everything from “The Avengers” to “The Expendables” – everyone was patient, skilled and ready for whatever came up.
5. Never stopped building connections
After shooting, we knew making “Awesome Asian Bad Guys” was only a small part of the work and that continuing to build our network and getting the word out was the gargantuan other part. Our friends at IFP brought us to New York for their annual FilmWeek where we had the honor of being the first web series ever to participate in their Emerging Storytellers Program. From this we were able to make amazing connections with people we otherwise never would have had direct access to. This included distributors, producers and film festival heads most of whom we’re still in touch with today. IFP ultimately had a big hand in our distribution because they introduced us to VHX, who in turn introduced us to FilmBuff, who then became our partner for our June 23 multi-platform VOD release.
6. Screened at a lot of film festivals
Throughout production we had been in contact with numerous festivals, and when we finished we decided it would be great to mobilize our audience in as many cities as we could. We went all over the country and into Canada with Awesome Asian Bad Guys. Our list of stops included San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, Chicago, New York, Toronto, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Vancouver, San Jose and Eugene. We met fans face to face, built strong relationships with community organizations that run festivals, and we sold T-shirts everywhere we could.
7. Had rock star supporters.
Through it all we had a solid foundation supporting us including friends, family, and our loyal fanbase that has stuck with us every step of the way.
It has been an amazing journey thus far, and we are excited to see where it goes next. It can be tough sometimes because we always have the feeling that there is more that we can do. More people to contact, more content to create. However, we know that working hard, collaborating with talented artists, and engaging with our supporters will continue to get us far.
Watch this video below for more info on how they did it:
Stephen Dypiangco and Patrick Epino are creators/directors of “Awesome Asian Bad Guys” and co-founders of the National Film Society, a new media studio and PBS web series. “Awesome Asian Bad Guys” will be available on http://AwesomeAsianBadGuys.com, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox and Playstation starting June 23rd.