If you haven’t seen any of Wong Fu Pro’s videos, you’re not making full use of your YouTube time. To date, this LA-based independent film house has had more than 150 million views on their YouTube channel and over a million subscribers. I-S managed to get into the heads of two-thirds of the team Philip Wang and Wesley Chan, when they were in Singapore for Social Media Unveiled (part of the boys’ Asia tour) last week.
What does Wong Fu mean?
Philip Wang: We get this question a lot and I wish I had a more interesting answer but it’s actually quite embarrassing. It’s based on this nickname that I had in high school that was based on a screening I did in middle school. It was just something I used in a few videos for fun and it snowballed into this. It has nothing to do with our last names, which is what a lot of people think.
If Wong Fu was a human being, how would you describe it?
Wesley Chan: It would be…
PW: …like us!
WC: It would be very happy-go-lucky with its own moments of deep thought. It would be someone that everyone is friends with; very approachable and positive. It would be someone that wants to learn and keep getting better.
PW: Hopefully a good role model.
WC: I think I just described the ideal person.
This is a tough one—if you had to choose, which would be your favorite video and why?
WC: We can all agree that we have a close relationship with David Choi so we’ve really enjoyed working on those music videos (See "That Girl" MV below.) with him. There’s a progression in terms of how they look and feel and we feel like we always improve a little bit every time we work on something new with him. His music is so good we wanted to make sure we matched it with good visuals.
PW: The music video we did for Wang Lee Hom is also something we’re really proud of. He’s the biggest celebrity we’ve worked with so far and it was a very big challenge because we didn’t have a lot of time to work on it. We only had a week to make it something successful—definitely one of the videos that show we’ve reached a certain point.
What inspires your work? Pop culture?
WC: Most of our content isn’t based on pop culture. We try to approach themes and topics that are timeless, minus a few here and there like the Jeremy Lin video we did. But most of the stuff are really general and relatable topics.
Does social media play a large role in the way you obtain material for your videos?
PW: Twitter and Facebook, which we’re largely engaged in, are mostly about connecting with our fans. We use it to interact with them and find out what they think about our latest projects, not really to check out what the latest trends are.
What did each of you want to be growing up?
WC: I wanted to be a lot of things but when my parents asked me this question when I was eight years old, I told them I wanted to be a dragonfly because I didn’t understand the question. But then after that, I wanted to be a paleontologist.
PW: I wanted to be a Lego designer, and I still do.
What have someone done with video that you admire and wish you’d achieved first?
WC: I think everything that the director Michel Gondry has done—all those camera effects—is so innovative. There’s something there that I can really look up to. What Christopher Nolan is doing now with his movies is also really amazing; no one has anything bad to say about his work because it’s just so good on every level.
Which one of you is the funniest?
PW: We all have different types of humor but that’s what makes us a good team—there are different dimensions about us.
WC: Our humor only works because there are three of us talking at once. If you put us all in separate rooms, I’m 100% sure that I cannot be funny.
What are some bizarre stuff you’ve found out about each other throughout your journey?
WC: Ted [Fu] likes to smell his food before eating it. Phil blows his nose after he eats.
PW: Yeah, after I eat, I always blow my nose for some reason. Is this bizarre?
WC: And me… I don’t like dust.
PW: I don’t like dust.
WC: No, but I really can’t do something if I see dust. Like before I drive, I have to wipe my dashboard…
PW: …He’s just OCD.
How about girlfriends, or do they not figure in the mix?
PW: I think it’s good to have a distance between our personal lives and what we put out there. We have personal lives [laughs]. It’s kind of fun to have our fans wonder what kind of girls we like. We like to keep the fans on their toes.
What does it take to be a YouTube star?
PW: We’re not like your typical YouTube star so the things we would suggest would be a little different. Wong Fu Productions never started out wanting to be YouTube-famous so I would tell people not to make that their focus. If you really like to make videos or tell stories or whatever, make that your focus. Make good content first before you worry about wanting to be popular. When we have the chance, we always like to tell people to make sure they’re chasing the right thing first. And also, what we do is a lot of work. I don’t think a lot of people know that. They just think “oh, they make videos” but it’s more than a full-time job; it’s like our entire lives. They have to understand it’s going to take a lot of work and time. We’ve been doing this for seven years! They should really have a passion for it before they decide they want to be famous.
WC: If it’s really what you enjoy doing, keep doing it and keep getting better. Don’t be afraid to try new things and be original. Keep growing as an artist.