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home : arts : arts Monday, November 20, 2017

9/6/2017 4:28:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
An Interview With Movie Director Kang Vang - Part 2

By Nancy Lee

1995 Cast and crew
Nancy: How big was your team? How was it possible to do the film with your team?

Director Kang: The production team itself was VERY small, but very efficient. Kue Xiong was the Production Manager, which meant he was in charge of all the organizing of everything, scheduling, and day to day work, making sure we were on schedule. He also helped log shots and slate shots for our sync sound. Bonnsy Vue, Lalee Yang, and Kengi Yang did everything from storyboard art, to prop making, to production assistance, to camera operation, to recording sound, to grip and gaffe work, to light design. Mikow Hang (my wife) designed and managed set wardrobe, managed props, assisted in my day to day, and gave me my daily boost of encouragement! David Kang was one of our Producers and so he helped us manage our finances, locate and contact theaters, and helped to raise funding for the movie. Kenny Lee was our Director of Sound, and so he did all of the sound design, foley work, audio mixing, and Shu Lor was our music composer so he was recording artists, writing the original score, and contacting various artists from the era for their music. Lee Yang did all of the visual special effects you saw and "did not" see in the film. We had so many others who pitched in to help that I cannot name them all, but these were my primary crew.

NL: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

DK: A great film for me is something that you walk away from feeling a sense of something greater than yourself. It makes you feel like something great about the universe had been revealed to you. It does not belittle the intelligence of the audience, it challenges, and it draws from the energy of the audience. Some of my all time favorite films have been comedies because comedies... GOOD comedies are honest. They are honest about what it is to be human, and it allows us to laugh at ourselves in order for us to become better people.

NL: What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

DK: I grew up on films from the 80's and 90's by legendary filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, John Hughes, Robert Zemeckis, John Landis, Martin Scorsese, the Farrelly brothers etc... I then started to drift away from Hollywood films because they started getting REALLY bad. I fell in love with foreign films from directors like John Woo, Tsui Hark, Wong Kar Wai, Zhang Yimou, Luc Besson, Edgar Wright... and recently, I've been watching films from Korean directors such as Park Chan-wook, Yoon Je-kyoon, Kwak Jae-yong. As for Hmong films, my jaw dropped when I first saw my good friend Moua Lee's film, "Loj Leeb (The Prodigal Son)." And then he followed up with his heart wrenching film "Kuv Leej Niam," which to me are the two TOP Hmong films ever made. These filmmakers were all so influential to me because they all had their unique voices and unique visions. Their films were honest, and beautiful, and taught me something about the human condition, made me feel something deep inside my core. Their films stayed with me for whatever reason, and I draw lessons about life from them, even to this day!

NL: If there is one or more thing you think would make the film industry better, what would it be?

DK: I believe that there are THREE major steps we need to take in order to better the Hmong film industry:

1) STOP BUYING ILLEGAL PIRATED MOVIES and STOP UPLOADING MOVIES ONTO YOUTUBE or some other download site. How can we Hmong filmmakers compete with an illegally pirated Korean, Chinese, Thai film that took millions of dollars to make, but is being sold for $5 on the black market a.k.a. the Hmong flea markets? Our film industry cannot grow because of this. We cannot sell enough copies of our films because we have to compete with illegal films that are flooding the market, and our movies being uploaded online; and because our market is so small, that competition is choking us. We can't sell enough to sustain our production companies, and so our production companies cannot grow. We can't sell enough copies to hire good camera operators, or editors, or writers, or afford other production costs, therefore our productions remain stagnant. The only way to keep alive, is to make these cheap fast movies and go from soccer tournament to soccer tournament, and new year festival to new year festival in hopes of selling them.

2) EDUCATION: Filmmakers need to educate themselves in the craft of filmmaking. They don't need to go to school for it, but they need to understand the basics of the craft, or find people who understand it to perform those certain roles. A lot of times, educating yourself is merely volunteering for another production and learning how they do things, or ASKING other filmmakers how they would do certain things. The more connected our filmmaking community is, the stronger we become! Most of us are willing to help out other filmmakers: all they have to do is ask! Collaborate and work together.

3) MARKETING: Putting one trailer on YouTube or a poster up at the stores do not give you enough exposure to your audience. Marketing needs to be something that is done consistently and continually in order for it to be effective. Don't put material out there for the audience if it is not ready. Not everyone is a graphic designer, or an editor who can cut together a compelling trailer; so the producers need to find people who are good at those jobs and work with them to make it more effective. You can't sell your movie if nobody knows it exists!

Director Kang's film, 1985 was also nominated for Best Emerging Director by the 2017 Asian American International Film Festival in New York. Thanks to the hard work of his small, but efficient Cast and Crew members for helping Kang phenomenally bring out the film as they did. As the interview ends, we hope to see more projects from our Hmong-American Director, Kang Vang in the future.

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