Five Lessons Learned from the San Diego Asian Film Festival Buzzfeed Panel

Back in November, a panel featuring three members of Buzzfeed, directors Eugene Lee Yang and Abe Forman- Greenwald, and senior business analyst Mallory Wang was held at UC San Diego for the 16th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival (held annually by Pacific Arts Movement). The panel, moderated by actress and internet personality Anna Akana, explored Buzzfeed’s success in internet video over the past two years from both creative and business perspectives.

Here are five lessons that we learned from this panel:

Abe Forman- Greenwald, Mallory Wang and Eugene Lee Yang at SDAFF – Photo by Jose Bucud, Pacific Arts Movement

1. Buzzfeed is always learning

Every time you watch a Buzzfeed video or read a Buzzfeed list, they’re learning a little bit more about what kind of content people want to see. They test everything, from who’s in the video all the way to the way the titles are worded, and they iterate to test theories and patterns. While it sounds scary and big brother-like, it’s actually what led them to realize the demand for culturally diverse programming. Thanks metrics!

2. What all the colored Buzzfeed channels mean

The color titles for Buzzfeed’s many channels represent the general themes of the videos in each. Violet represents “You”, character driven videos celebrating what makes people unique, Blue represents “Science”, and the cool stuff that occurs in our world, and Yellow represents Identity (nope, it’s not yellow as in Asian people), a celebration of culture that originally began with female-focused videos.

3. “If Asians Said the Stuff White People Say” started a movement

It’d be an understatement to say that “If Asians Said the Stuff White People Say” was just a popular video from Buzzfeed. The company’s first racially-focused video was a groundbreaking achievement that set the tone for their future work. Originally inspired by a Facebook post by Jeff Yang (pioneering APA writer and father of Fresh Off the Boat star Hudson Yang), the internal Buzzfeed brainstorming thread exploded as the concept “opened a floodgate that was begging to be opened.” After the success of the viral video, Buzzfeed does what it does best and iterated on the idea to what we see today, expanding to other minority group and exposing audiences to alternative perceptions.

4. Buzzfeed will never run out of ideas

In just a few years, Buzzfeed Motion Pictures has grown from 20 to more than 200 producers! With each of their producers being encouraged to create their own content, and the quick turnaround on projects (many with only a 2 person crew and $300 budget), Buzzfeed isn’t worried about the well running dry anytime soon. In fact, Buzzfeed is expanding its production scope by developing scripted content, social media focused video, and even documentary features.

5. Advice for young creatives

The panel offered this solid advice to up-and-coming creators, “keep making stuff!” A lot of the most popular content produced at Buzzfeed occurred because opportunity collided with the drive to create. “Parents imitate their children” came to be because Eugene’s mom just happened to be in town, and led to parents of Buzzfeed staff being involved in more of their content. In addition to taking advantage of opportunities, it’s also important for creators to find unique perspectives from their own point of view. It may be harder, but the crew challenges up-and-comers to “figure out your voice and then push as hard as you can!”

The Buzzfeed Panel @ Atkinson Hall, UC San Diego – Photo by Jose Bucud, Pacific Arts Movement


Cover photo credit: Epix Productions

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