Advanced Screenings and Artist Spotlights at CAAMFest San Jose 2015

San Jose, home to the third largest Asian American population in the United States, recently played host to the annual CAAMFest San Jose film festival. From September 17-20, screenings, Q&As, and even an artist presentation marked the film festival’s 13th year in the South Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Friday’s opening night at the Camera 3 Cinema, usually reserved for showcasing films, features an unprecedented screening of a TV show, Fresh off the Boat. The family sitcom made history as not only the second show to star an Asian American family since Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl, but also the first to be renewed for a second season. Stephen Gong, executive director of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), highlighted the show’s significance to the community, stating how Fresh off the Boat is both a phenomenon that is funny but with truth to it.



A large audience attended this first screening, notably a number of kids with their parents. The attendees were treated to the final episode of Season 1, as well as an early screening of the Season 2 premiere. Needless to say, laughs filled the room at all the right moments.

Melvin Mar, executive producer of Fresh off the Boat, was the night’s special guest, and after the screening, he joined CAAM Festival Director Masashi Niwano onstage for a discussion and a Q&A. Mar went in-depth on how he went from being fresh out of Cal Poly Pomona, not knowing what direction to take, to interning for Fox and DreamWorks, before eventually finding himself in a position where he was able to pitch an idea for a sitcom surrounding an Asian American family. As far as what to expect from the second season, he specifically highlighted how we’ll see the character of Grandma Huang (Lucille Soong) expanded more, as well as an upcoming Chinese New Year episode later this winter.

The Opening Night Gala followed afterwards at the San Jose Museum of Art. Richie Menchavez of the Asian American online radio station, Traktivist, served as the DJ for the evening with a playlist largely made up of 90’s music. Deviled eggs, mini cupcakes, beer and wine were consumed as attendees mingled with one another, having a good time, as well as even hitting the dance floor at one point. The night ended on a good note.


Saturday continued on with CAAMFest’s programming beginning with In Football We Trust. The documentary follows four NFL hopefuls, all of Polynesian descent, in Salt Lake City, Utah as they navigate their way to the ultimate glory, while with dealing with intergenerational gang violence, poverty, and their families’ expectations.

Co-director Tony Vainuku was in attendance and discussed with Niwano afterwards for the moderately sized audience how he conceptualized the idea for the documentary from his uncle’s experience, who was also once an NFL hopeful. He explained how filming for the documentary went about, in particular when it came to gaining the trust from both the subjects and their families. In addition, he also explained how actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who was completely moved by the film, is coming onboard as a producer for the film’s wider release next year.

Barney Cheng’s directorial debut, Baby Steps, followed afterwards, as the good-sized number of attendees were treated to a comedy-drama that follows Danny (Cheng) as he and his American partner are on a mission to find a surrogate mother, all the while he deals with his own mother/excited grandmother-to-be.

Felicia Lowe’s Chinese Couplets and Ham Tran’s Hollow– both of which were screened at CAAMFest last March- were the final two films for the day and the Centerpiece party was held that evening at the Nomikai Bar.

Sunday marked the last day of CAAMFest San Jose, beginning with a free screening of the web series Lucky Chow at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose and closed out with a screening of Vikas Bahl’s critically acclaimed Queen at Camera 3.

Sunday afternoon was when the centerpiece presentation took place with a focus on comic book writer/filmmaker Greg Pak, moderated by graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang. Accompanied by a slideshow, Pak first discussed his film career with works like Robot Stories, before going onward to his works he has done for companies like Marvel and DC Comics. He showed the step-by-step process of his illustrator’s work for his upcoming Kingsway West, pictures of his character Amadeus Cho as the new Hulk, and previews from his children’s books, ABC Disgusting and The Princess Who Saved Herself.


In discussion with Yang, Pak went even further into his background, explaining how while he grew up enjoying comics, he never thought of writing comic books as a career. Looking into the future, he is now considering a wide assortment of projects; some of them, he said, would actually work better as films than comic books.

The presentation wrapped up with musician Goh Nakamura performing a song from the soundtrack for Kingsway West called “Sonia,” as well as a cover of the Beatles’ “Red Balloons.”

It was another successful CAAMFest San Jose for the staff and volunteers! Now, they continue onwards with preparations for CAAMFest 2016.

Photos & Video courtesy of CAAM

Movie Review: Make Way for the Awesome Asian Bad Guys

Do you like Asians?  Do you like bad guys?  Do you like… ASIAN BAD GUYS?  Released earlier this summer, Awesome Asian Bad Guys is the first feature-length film by The National Film Society.  NFS Directors, Patrick Epino and Steven Dypiangco, directed and starred in the film along with industry veterans Tamlyn Tomita, Al Leong, Yuji Okumoto, and George Cheung (also starring a pre-Fresh off the Boat Randall Park).  The film pays tribute to Asian American actors and actresses who have had roles as bad guys in classic movies.  And honestly, they had me when I saw Tamlyn Tomita and Dante Basco on the ads.

I was very eager to watch this film because of my own frustrations with the lack of representation for Asian Americans in media. It seems like there haven’t been many American-made feature length movies with Asian Americans that have made an impression in the mainstream, even though, as the film’s successful Kickstarter has demonstrated, there is certainly a demand for it. I came in with high expectations and while I didn’t find the film perfect, it did leave me with some impressions & thoughts.

Here are few of the stronger ones:

Classic Asian American Film Stars Re-Introduced


One of the things that this film did really well is bring Asian American film stars back to the spotlight.  Being unfamiliar with their work myself, it was really cool to learn about these actors and their impact on Steven and Patrick as film buffs and people in general.  Who among us hasn’t grown a mustache or went on a week-long juice cleanse to imitate our idols?

The National Film Society as Comedic Leads


The lightness and humor in this film were great.  Steven and Patrick are very likeable guys, as I learned from watching their YouTube channel.  Their self-deprecating sense of humor is quirky and fun, so it was nice to see it shine through in the film.  Some of my personal favorites: Patrick and Tamlyn’s budding romance, Yuji Okumoto’s insults like “poop stain,” “useless pukes,” and “nipple dick,” Aaron Takahashi mistaking Steven for Lou Diamond Phillips.

Awesome (Asian) Fight Scenes


I also was pretty impressed with the fight scenes, which were well-choreographed and just a little bit silly (in a good way).

But who are the Real Bad Guys?


It was kind of a bummer that a (Spoiler Alert!) major plot point in the film involved a plot by the film’s villain, Aaron Takahashi (playing himself, like most of the cast), to kill other talented Asian American artists, blaming them for taking roles that he should have won.  We all know that there are a multitude of reasons as to why APAs are not quite visible in popular culture.  I wish Awesome Asian Bad Guys confronted some of the real reasons why Asian American actors and actresses are pigeonholed into small roles as bad guys and why they’re forgotten about.

While adding a little bit of depth to the film’s message would have made it a real winner in my eyes, when all is said and done, “Awesome Asian Bad Guys” is a really fun and humorous take on the classic underdog story.  And with a possible sequel in the works (based of the cliffhanger ending), who knows?  Maybe we will see all the Awesome Asian Bad Guys working together again to kick some Hollywood producer ass next time.

Awesome Asian bad guys is available to purchase on-demand at

Photo/Video Credits: National Film Society & Angry Asian Man

Clara C did a Reddit AMA! Here are 10 Things we Learned

On October 10, Kollaboration 10 winner Clara C will performing live in Houston, TC as one of the headliners for SASEFest, the Asian American music festival that Kollaboration is helping produce in conjunction with the 2015 SASE (Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers) National Conference. Kollaboration and SASE hosted a Reddit AMA for Clara late last week. Here are some of the highlights:

1. She can play a bunch of instruments and dreams in song

“I think it’s somewhere in the low double digits… But, I’m obviously better at some than others. The songwriting process is different every time! Sometimes, I’ll hear a beat right as my brain’s falling asleep and have to record it on a voice memo and work on it in the morning. Other times, a full length song from start to finish will download into my brain all at once. I have 6 guitars =) Musical background is…trained in classical piano with some theory and self-taught in everything else (voice, guitar, recording, mixing [etc])”

2. She’s a self professed nerd and has pro-level Mario skills!

“I’ll kick aaaaaanyone’s ass at anything Mario or puzzle-ey. I own every video game console but haven’t had time for video games these days. But truth be told, I always have been and will continue to be a nerd in all things I’m interested in. Nerds run the world. #nerdpride”

3. There was supposedly a time in the past when she was bad at singing

“My singing is self-taught! There was a time I royally SUCKED at singing and I have video to prove it. But, I also have video of me with really good pitch singing karaoke when I was 5 so I think it was in me somewhere. I haven’t ever taken lessons although I’d like to. I just listened to voices I liked and took away bits and pieces and applied it to mine. It was, “I like her vibrato” coupled with “I like that tone” mixed with “I dig that falsetto” and soon I had what was my own voice. Since then, my voice has evolved into something of its own but the aforementioned was a good starting point.”

4. She was working on a responsible backup plan when her musical dreams came true

“I was in college when my career took off but I was studying Psychology and was a Behavior Technician for children with autism. Before I could even start full-time, my music career had taken off and now I’ve been doing it for 5 years! Music was my dream all my life. It remained a dream for a while because 1. I wasn’t quite musically developed enough until college and 2. I thought it impossible for someone like me to have a music career. We live in a beautiful age where anything’s possible. I hope you get to pursue and obtain your dreams too.”

5. Her regular In-N-Out order is legit

“I get a cheeseburger with grilled AND whole grilled onions…protein style and my fries well done. If I’m feeling bad, neapolitan milkshake. Otherwise, pink lemonade!”

6. Rowdy audiences are her favorite crowd to play for

“This questions gonna get me in TRUBBLEEEEE. How I feel about everywhere I go in the world is heavily influenced by the people. I LOVE a rowdy, obnoxious, free-spirited audience. Based on just audiences I’ve played for, Sydney, Australia and Houston, Toronto and Kuala Lumpur are my favorites”

7. She is fascinated with marine biology and dreams of diving with sharks

“As you may or may not know, I am a marine FANATIC. I love scuba and literally love every sea creature ever made from sharks to little nudibrancs to deep sea creatures that dwell in the dark. However, there’s something about watching a sea otter on its back trying to crack open a clam with its shortass little arms that just kills me. Also, I might add that it definitely is on my bucket list to dive with whale sharks in the wild.”

8. She loves to hear about how her music has touched her fans

“There’s something intangibly powerful about music. Even if you don’t understand the language of a song, it still has the capacity to move and change the color of any moment you’re in. Sometimes, when I’m going through something and a song comes on that’s describing my exact situation, there’s catharsis and release. I think being involved with making something that holds this much power is an amazing privilege. So, when someone tells me about how something I wrote helped them through a hard time or when a couple uses one of my songs as their wedding song, it’s rewarding beyond words that I was able to touch a human soul.”

9. There’s a third Clara C album coming out… in a few months

“I’m working hard on my third album. I want it to be perfect so I keep pushing deadlines and things. (Not the best thing but I’ve become quite the perfectionist so sue me!) It should be out in a couple months and a tour will follow afterwards.”

10. She’s a proud member of the Kollab Fam

“There were 5,000 people in the audience that night I won Kollaboration (talent contest) who went home and searched me on Youtube. I think I had 11 subscribers then. I was so happy to have those 11! Then the whole thing blew up. I feel extremely fortunate to have the Kollab family on my team.”


If you’re in the Houston area on 10/10, don’t miss SASEFest, tickets on sale now!

Anna Akana on Conducting Interviews, Show-Biz Lessons, and Being Honest

Anna Akana is everywhere.  Well, not literally.  However, Anna figuratively has an egg in a lot of baskets.

While she’s mostly known for her hilarious and thought-provoking YouTube channel, Anna has also appeared in feature films like Ant-Man, and Hello, My Name is Doris, and has had roles on television shows like MTV’s Awkward, and ABC Family’s The Fosters.  Along with this, Anna stars in live improv shows and designs t-shirts for her fashion line, Ghost and Stars.

Even with all this on her plate, Anna was gracious enough to take the time for us and answer some questions about what she’s working on now and more:

What were you doing right before this?
Interviewing people for an assistant position.

I’ve never interviewed someone to work for me!  Is it as nerve-wracking as being the interview-ee?
It’s not nerve-wracking at all.  It’s more monotonous.  You hope that every single person who comes in will be the right person.

What was the last YouTube Video you saw?
I watched The Fine Bros most recent Last Moments that I was in.  I played a girlfriend who wanted to make up a grandiose story about how we met.  It was great!

Is it more fun to act, direct, or write on a project?
I love acting.  That’s my favorite part of filmmaking.

What is most important to you when you are working on a project?
That I give it my all.

Do quality, quantity, the number of views, etc. play a role in this?
As long as I learned something that I can apply to my next project, I am happy.

What is one of the biggest lessons you learned from this line of work?
I learned that you have to be ok with being a boss.  And when hiring friends, beware.  Relationship dynamics may be messed with.

What do you do when you have a creative block/when you’re stuck?
Reading helps.  I enjoy Steven King.

Your vlogs are very genuine, funny, and personal.  Is it scary to share so much of yourself with your audience? 
I used to be a pathological liar, so honesty is always the best policy for me.  It can be scary, yes, but ultimately I’m happy that I was at least honest.

What’s next up for Anna?  While we are keeping our fingers crossed for another Marvel movie (she is too!), check out her most recent short film, “Loose Ends,” on YouTube.

Fresh off the Boat Recap – “Family Business Trip”

It’s been a minute since we were first introduced to Huang family on ABC’s Fresh off the Boat.  The first all Asian American family sitcom in 20 years recently made history as being the first one to last more than one season, after a solid first season mixing laugh out loud humor with the reality of growing up in an Asian American household.  After Tuesday’s premiere, it’s already safe to say that the second season is off to another hilarious start.

School is out for the summer and Eddie Huang spends the days away either watching TV or playing video games.  His goal is to return to school to show off the one cool thing he did during the summer, buying his own pair of “fresh as hell” Reebok Pumps.  However, after watching a report on MTV, made by hip hop luminary Ed Lover no less, he learns that Reebok Pump shoes were seen being worn by the legendary (but uncool) John Stockton and were now effectively uncool. With summer coming to a close Eddie must quickly come up with a cool experience to share with his school friends before vacation’s end.

Conveniently, he along with brothers Emery and Evan, mom Jessica and grandma tag along with his dad Louis on a “family business trip” to Gator World.  However, Jessica, who was already suspecting something fishy regarding her husband’s business trip, eventually learns that there was no business to attend to on this trip after all, and that in fact all of Louis’ past “business trips” have been secret vacations to unwind.

As someone who, until then, never believed in vacations (cue Jessica’s burst of laughter when her friend Honey suggested taking one earlier in the episode), she finds it difficult to wrap her mind around such a concept.  However, after attending a massage session Louis booked for her, accompanied by the sound of whale calls, Jessica at long last learns what it means to relax and be on vacation.

Meanwhile, Eddie ventures off to build up his reputation by riding the most extreme ride in Gator World, the Death Roll.  But all it took was a quick glimpse of a kid being pulled away, vomiting on a stretcher, for him to quickly chicken out of the idea.  Forced to return to school without a cool story to tell, his uneventful summer was not well received by his friends… at first that is.  Things took a 180 degree turn when his crush Nicole, who was supposed to have started high school, returns to redo eighth grade. She tells Eddie that she wished she could have played it simple over the summer like he did instead of skipping out on summer school. Her compliment instantly validating Eddie’s lazy summer.

In the end, young Eddie scores reputation points with Nicole, and more importantly, Fresh off the Boat scores big for making it back for a triumphant second season premiere! I look forward to seeing more strong and hilarious stories this season, as well as more character growth and exploration of the show’s world, in particular for the character of Grandma Huang.

Photo Credit – ABC

Recapping the Kollaboration EMPOWER Conference

I’m new to this sprawling city. In fact it has only been about two months since I officially moved here. Naturally, being the new girl, I’m always on the lookout for things to do and learn. Enter Kollaboration’s inaugural Leadership Conference.

Quite honestly, I did not know what Kollaboration was until I came to Los Angeles. I had heard about it in passing a few times, since it does exist across the country (14 cities to be exact), and I understood it to be an Asian American talent competition. It is an annual talent showcase but over the years Kollaboration has morphed from a platform for Korean American artists to share their talents to a pan-Asian Pacific Islander movement that unites and inspires aspiring artists to pursue creative careers. Kollaboration is all about challenging the status quo, creating change (not just talking about it) and dreaming big- and as cliché as that may sound, that’s exactly what my move here to LA and my life in general is about.


Needless to say, Kollaboration brought together a great group of speakers and perspectives from all corners of the entertainment and media industry. It was also nice to have like-minded individuals- people who challenge expectations, are curious about possibility and aren’t afraid to talk about fear, in the same room. It was a pretty empowering way to start my weekend, to say the least.

To do a summary of each session would be overkill, so instead, here are some quotables and highlights from the conference.


Jim Kwik, memory expert and founder of Kwik Learning, started the conference with some handy tricks on memory, particularly remembering names. He left us with a few mnemonics but the key message was that “Reasons reap results.” Basically,  all behaviors are belief driven whether it’s with memory or with following through with your thoughts. If you can believe that you will, you can. Also, “Practice means progress.”


Bing Chen, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Victorious, a new media company, philosophized about the effects of technology before moderating a panel. Something he said really struck me: “It’s incredibly hard being yourself in 2015.”


Chris Pan, founder of, asked us a very profound question: What is your (life) intention? We all had to think of a word we wanted to focus our energy on or have more of in our life during a moment of silence. We then got this word stamped on a bracelet (or necklace) as a reminder. My word was Trust.


Tamlyn Tomita, actress known for her roles in Joy Luck Club, The Karate Kid Part II, and Teen wolf enlightened us with seasoned advice: “Acknowledge your fear and be fearless. Leave people thinking oh my gosh. What was her name? All I can leave people with is the energy you give them.”

Christine Chen, Producer at Wong Fu Productions, when asked what she wish she knew when she was 21 said:  “You get what you put in. This life is ready to bless you but no one is going to hand it to you. Check your ego at the door.”

Paul PK Kim, founder of Kollaboration (which is now in it’s 16th year) among many other accomplishments, spoke on the importance of focus. “If you chase two rabbits you won’t catch either.”

Eric Kim, Vice President of Current Programs at CBS Television Studios, where he oversees all phases of production for the network’s television programming said that in this day and age “you have no excuse not to do what you want to. The technology is readily available. If you’re a director, go direct something.”


Sunil Malhotra, writer, producer and actor spoke on the importance of “Be[ing] a human being.” No matter what it is your doing or who you’re talking to, it’s key to maintain perspective and treat each other like, a person.


Alex Hwang, Lead singer of indie folk-rock band, Run River North, spoke about the difficulties of being a musician. But the things he knows for sure: “Believe in the product. Relationships mean a lot.”

Travis Graham, lead singer of New Heights mentioned Trust as an important factor of creating. “I think the main concern with working with someone in LA, is if you vibe. There has to be trust for the best work.”

Peter Hong, label executive, musician and producer never saw the kind of music he wanted to hear, so he did it himself. “I’ve always been the guy to create my own work.”

There was so much more (I had difficulty choosing between sessions) but you get the idea. It was a conference that reconfirmed and reminded me of the things that I already knew- the things that maybe we’re afraid to talk about out loud, but should talk about more.


One thing became very clear as I sat in the audience listening to these stories. These panelists are just like us. They have hopes, dreams and fear. But the difference and why they were on the stage giving us advice was that they not only started somewhere, believed in something, and worked for/towards it. They tried and failed but kept going and lived, so to speak, to tell the story of what they created.

The fact is, you can do it too. You just have to find out what your voice is. Like Beau Sia, Tony Award winning poet and performer put it, “Thank G-d all of you are out there doing you and sharing your story. It’s all about getting together but honoring each person’s unique way.”

I don’t know about you but hearing things like this make me want to keep doing, keep dreaming.

Give yourself a pat on the back if you were there that Saturday like I was, and if you weren’t it’s ok, everyday is a day to begin again and…. Kollaboration has many more events to come.

This article was guest written by Andrea M, a New Yorker navigating her new home of Los Angeles one day at a time. You can find her personal blog at

We Have a New Trailer – Come See What’s New!

Today marks the kickoff of Kollaboration’s new content strategy and starting this week, you can check back for regular blog and media content updates brought to you by the national Kollaboration teams! To commemorate this moment, we’ve cut a new “sizzle” reel for you all to re-introduce our programs. Come see what’s new, and we hope you’ll stay a while!