UC Riverside was visited by Wong Fu Productions through an event hosted by Asian Pacific Student Programs (APSP). A veteran YouTube channel that has captured the hearts of millions of viewers worldwide, the team behind Wong Fu Productions includes Philip Wang, Wesley Chan and Ted Fu. The channel features a variety of content, including short films, web series, and vlogs, which explore the experiences of Asian Americans and deal with topics such as love, relationships and cultural identity.
At the event, fans were able to first meet with Wes and the rest of the team as a prelude before Phillip Wang took the stage, sitting alongside two interviewers. Through numerous questions, the audience was able to learn more about Phillip and his passions, as well as the Wong Fu production team and their current endeavors.
Wong Fu Productions was started as a hobby by Philip, Wesley and Ted, who met while studying at the University of California, San Diego. Wang elaborated how their start was
“Pure exploration,” and explained, “When we started our YouTube channel, no one was doing it at the time. We sold T-shirts out of our living room.” Their breakthrough came with the web series, “Just a Nice Guy” in 2008, which went viral and brought them to the attention of a wider audience. Since then, Wong Fu Productions has continued to produce high-quality content that resonates with audiences around the world. Some of their most popular projects include “Yellow Fever,” “Strangers, Again,” ”Asian Bachelorette” and “When It Counts.” The team has also collaborated with other YouTubers, including RocketJump, JustKiddingFilms, David So, and, famously, Ryan Higa, with the production of “Agents of Secret Stuff”.
In addition to their YouTube channel, Wong Fu Productions also operates a restaurant called “Boba Guys” in San Francisco. The idea for the restaurant came from Philip and Wesley’s experience working in a restaurant while at UCSD, and they eventually decided to open their own cafe. They wanted to create a space that was more than just a place to get a good cup of tea, implementing a Studio Ghibli-inspired experience. The group utilized Joe Hisashi’s soundtrack and Hayao Miyazaki’s atmosphere. Referencing other fellow content creators who have expanded their brand beyond their channels, Wang advised that “If anyone’s thinking about it, think hard about it. It’s very fulfilling”
Wong Fu Productions has been successful in their endeavors, but they have also faced their fair share of challenges. As Asian Americans, they did not have many role models to look up to and did not know that there were many options available to them. When asked if Phillip considered other career paths, the short answer was no. “A majority of things were not thought of on dream lists when growing up.” However, they found that the restaurant business a realistic goal in which they could imbue their passion for representing their culture and the Asian American experience.
The team has also had to navigate the difficulties of running a business in the age of internet media culture. They have had to be adaptable and flexible, constantly evolving their content to keep up with changing trends and audiences that range across multiple generations. Wang expanded on how they were self-taught in an emerging time period for the YouTube platform. However, despite these challenges, they remain passionate about their work and find it fulfilling to be able to create content that has a real impact on people’s lives.
Alex Ha, a second year Computer Science major, commented on the event and explained, “It was a blast to be able to see Phil, Wes and the whole team. The event invoked a sense of nostalgia and struck a note with my childhood where I would binge the classic YouTube from that era.”
Looking to the future, Wong Fu Productions is excited about the possibilities that lie ahead, with the goals of starting their own Asian American studio and producing stories from the community. They hope to continue to produce high-quality content and to be able to keep their brand going for another 20 years. “It’s weird that after so many years, there hasn’t been another Wong Fu” making short films is difficult and expensive to produce,” Wang explained as he expressed how he felt his purpose was to act as a role model to help future Asian American producers jumpstart their careers.
An Audience Q&A concluded the night, and led to several notable questions being asked by eager fans. When asked how to overcome self doubt, he responded that he felt more sympathy towards our generation as we must navigate through social media and worry about people’s reactions. He was thankful he found a good core of people that shared the same mindset and personality. “People think we’re weird running on campus. Now it’s normal but it wasn’t back then.” “We’ll be weird with you,” he proclaimed as he encouraged the audience to foster that core then go from there. Another question asked for a specific core memory that exemplified that he chose the right career path. Wang explained how during his second year, he was in a friend’s apartment checking video stats and noticed Canada was there. “Omg were international,” he exclaimed as he had no expectation for things going viral.
In an exclusive interview with the Highlander News Editor, Wang expressed to the UCR campus, “Riverside, actually has been a huge supporter of Wong Fu since when we first started. I always love when we get an email from you guys that you want me or Wong Fu to come back and speak. So just really appreciate the love and support. I actually remember my first time coming to Riverside. I was dancing in your quad area for like a Chinese heritage festival back in the day. I always love coming here.”