Posts Tagged ‘acting’


Hanging out in downtown LA today, Arts District, I sat down with had dinner with my boys and co-creatives in the We Own the 8th project, Carl Choi and MC Jin. The conversation was crazy with me and Jin, talking about where we’ve been in our careers and what’s ahead in the future. It’s wild to talk about past successes and be vulnerable to talk about things that weren’t as successful. Jin was the first Asian rapper I ever knew of, rose to fame through winning rap battles on BET and signed a record deal on Ruff Riders. A groundbreaking dude, for sure, and it’s great have a meeting of the minds and truly express ourselves and talk openly as artist to get each others view points on one another.

This game, this whole world of entertainment, it’s hard to make it, you know, most of the people that come to this party don’t succeed. Now, the one’s that find success, you start to see how hard is to keep success going and actually as you grow up your definition of success changes. The new generation of artist are coming on to the scene, and artist from my generation can’t help but tackle with the ideas and emotions of who we were then… who we are now… who we are going to be.

In our talks, one thing I got from Jin, like many artist, it’s like we’re survivors. I compared us to a like a rat in a flooded house or something, not going to drown, not going to give up, we find a way to survive. He like myself, he’s constantly taking inventory of himself and talents and reinvents himself. I applaud him on his past and look forward to what he has in store for the future, not only in music, but in acting and comedy.

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So I’m doing this play… Well, I wrote this play and I finally decided to do it. I actually got inspired to do it… I wrote this for me and my friends and one of my friends has been going through a rough time for the last few months and I thought working together on this project would be therapeutic and a good thing for both of us. Also, recently I became friends with Beau Sia, I’ve loved and respected his work for years, but recently we actually became friends and this was a great first project for us to work on together.

The thing about it is, I haven’t been onstage for awhile, I did do a play with East West Players a few years back and I actually wrote this play in their writing program, but to get back in shape (acting wise) to get back onstage… There’s always a bit of nervousness when it comes to that. Also, to top that, I wrote this play, so it means a lot to me.

But something happens when you start rehearsing, something really magical… You start to do the work… And when I say the work, I mean you get into it with other actors and the director, you start to investigate the material and start to speak the words and breathe life into these characters… Something magical happens, at least it does to me… I remember why I’m an actor.

I do love rehearsing, there’s a certain joy in working out the character and trying to fix the so called problems. I mean, I wrote the play and as a group we’re trying to figure out what it all means. The crazy thing is sometimes (and when I say sometimes, I mean often) the director or one of the cast explain something new they understood in the text, something their character is trying to say or a truth they uncovered… I often just nod my head as if I meant to write that, when in actuality, I am amazed that there are deeper levels in certain characters that I’ve ever imagined, so I just nod and listen.

This play, you know, sometimes you just have to do somethings. I don’t know what will come of this… We never know as artist what will happen once we create something. I just know that this is one of those project that no is doing for money, I don’t even know how many people will see this play… I just know it’s important while we’re here now, doing the work and actors at play doing a play. I mean, we’re all here in Hollywood, everyone trying to make a name for themselves and fortune while they’re at it. But at times like this, projects like this, it gets me back to the basics of how it all started, how I started… how this whole town started. A handful of actors, under the watchful eye of a director, on a stage… just acting their asses off.

Now, the invite is here on this blog, if you’re in LA, you’re welcomed to be one of the few eyes that will witness what we’ve put together… I hope there will be more shows in the future, but you never know… In any case, it’ll never be like the one going up that night… It is theatre, it happens in the moment, then it’s gone.

I Am Rufio & Prince Zuko… AMA

So last week I did this reddit interview and it was the first time I’ve ever been on it… I was a little nervous. Well, in my short life on social media, I’ve learned, that you all know more than me about this, so I try to just listen and hope you guys lead me in the right direction. In this case, a few people had told me I should do this reddit thing and I took mental note, but then when a bunch of other people shed light on it all, including a friend of mine, Matt King, I decided to commit to doing one and see where it takes me.

Well, of course I sent a little blast out to let everyone know I was going to do it… And to hope to have a few people there when I started. You know, it’s like throwing a party and scared that no one was going really show up! (I kinda hate that feeling) Well then, a bunch of folks got excited, but then, some of the folks on tumblr started telling me how the reddit folks can be a bit harsh and mean… So I got nervous. To top off all that when I signed into reddit and started my AMA, I saw that Emmy Rossum was doing hers at the exact same time! Now I’m thinking… Oh great… Now no one is really going to be at mine, hell, I would be at her’s too! And ironically, just a week before this, someone on tumblr asked me who my “celebrity crush” was… And flippantly said Emmy Rossum, I actually love her show Shameless and happened to see billboards around LA that day promoting the new season. Anyway, somehow that led to whole Emmy Rossum incident, which I have to admit was kinda funny.

Well, the whole AMA went really good… I actually answered questions for like 5 hours! About my whole career and take on life and also I wanted to help promote my new production company, Kentic Films as well as our first movie, “Hang Loose.” (If you haven’t seen it yet, go check it out at hangloosemovie.com) And being that this is my actual blog that I want to hold the history of my online life, I definitely needed to blog about this and have it here for good measure and documenting value… It was fun, the reddit folks were actually great and super nice to me… and somehow I managed to be more popular on the front page than Emmy’s AMA… go figure. Anyway, hit the link on top to read the whole thing or hit BestofAMA for the cliff notes version… Maybe I’ll do it again sometime, but you know, you can always ask me anything here, on tumblr or twitter!

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So, I’m out here in Calgary… I was flown out to make an appearance for the P.O.K.E. (Protect Our Kids Education) Charity, they head a poetry night and I was able to come out, support and drop a few poems.

But while I was out here, I had a last minute idea to meet up with some fans and promote my latest film, “Hang Loose.” I simply tweeted and tumblr’d out I was in town and asked who wanted to meet up and “hangout”? To my surprise I pretty good amount of people showed up… even though it was snowing outside! Truthfully, it was way too cold for me. But we all wound up in the Auburn Saloon (Shout out to Haley and Hannah for taking care of us!) and we had a great time.

I was able to tell everyone about my film company, Kinetic Films and was able to talk about, “Hang Loose,” the process of film making and my aim in starting the company. I did a long Q&A section where it was more like just talking to a group of friends. They got to ask me about my career… Hook, Rufio, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko and even Homestuck! We tried to watch the movie online, but there was too many of us and we clogged up the wifi! hahaha… Everyone promised to check it out at home and help spread the wordaround Calgary.

I had such a fun time meeting some fans, I ended up going to some new found friends house and watching “Hang Loose” with a handful of their friends!

So this impromptu Hang Loose Hangout was a success… It’s really like the film and our company, a real grass roots effort. I think we made a great little film and I think my company has a lot of potential. I hope everyone can go check it out at hangloosemovie.com and maybe we can come to your town and hangout soon!

 

-Thanks Dee for flying me out and hosting me!

-Thanks Cash for the great pics…

-Thanks to all my new Calgarian friends for showing up and all your hospitality!

So here’s my first blog for the new year… I have to admit, 2012 was a heavy year… Both personally and in concern with business. Last year I launched my production company, Kinetic Films, and our debut movie, “Hang Loose.”  And let me tell you, the stress of producing has been crazy! Getting the team together that has the same vision is hard enough, let alone putting together a talent pool that can pull off not one film, but three so far! And another one the the way.

Up to now, we’ve been so immersed in writing, producing, acting and everything else it takes to put a movie together and I think we’ve been doing a great job, these first few are pretty good movies. The pressure now comes in how to market and distribute. This is the place of my industry I’m most not qualified for. Let’s face it, I grew up as the talent… (that’s the actors, writers and whatnot’s) I’m used to preparing to shoot a movie and put my heart and soul into a project to get it on film and when we wrap shooting, I give out presents to the cast and crew… & I’ll see you at the premiere! Now as I’m growing up and having different roles in production, I’m seeing it all from a new perspective.

First off, the production is bigger than any one person, doesn’t matter if you’re the lead actor or director… once the boat takes off, no one can stop it, we have to get this movie made. And sadly, I’ve seen why actors get a bad name, I mean, I am an actor and I hate to see that happen, but I guess it goes with the territory. It truly takes a small village of people to make a movie, even at the micro-budget film making we embarked on.

So here we are, we have a great little movie and we want as many people to watch it as possible. Not only that, we have three more movies coming to you throughout the rest of the year! Although we finished shooting, looks like the work has just begun.

I’ll be travelling throughout the country over the next few months to talk about Kinetic Films and “Hang Loose,” you can follow me on twitter (@dantebasco) to see if I’ll be in your neck of the woods. Also, you can hit up HangLoosePR@gmail.com, to have us come to your town or school to help spread the word about the movie and Asian American film making.

Go watch the movie at hangloosemovie.com … now screening 24/7!

The first question I’m always asked is, “What have you been working on lately?” I’ve been so busy and many people have been hearing rumblings of what’s been going on but here it is, I can finally talk about it all. My latest project is not just producing or acting in an upcoming film, this project is bigger then that – much bigger. This project is the creation of a film company, Kinetic Films, with James Sereno and Samira Amiransari, and this company is dedicated to making films for the Asian American audience with our faces being the leads and stars of the films. We are telling our stories through pop culture cinema. We want to flood mainstream media with fresh films in a market where we haven’t always been properly represented. We’re excited for our debut film, “Hang Loose,” will be released online next month.

 

I’ve been fortunate to have a career in this industry that spans over the last few decades and I’m blessed to have played iconic characters such as Rufio, the leader of the Lost Boys, in Steven Spielberg’s “Hook,” and Zuko, the misunderstood prince of the Fire Nation, in Nickelodeon’s phenomenal hit, “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Yet often I meet and talk to young newcomers to the industry who ask for advice and guidance as they embark on their journey through Hollywood. I always try to prepare them for the amazing adventure ahead by first telling them to get good at their craft, great even… Also, I let them know how hard this business is no matter who you are but the reality is it is even harder for Asian Americans due to the quantity and quality of roles available for us (or should I say lack of). See the industry in Hollywood is probably the only workplace in the nation where you legally can hire someone on the basis of how one looks and their ethnic background. The breakdowns (job listings for roles) that go out everyday consist of three categories: 1) Those that specifically state seeking “African-American” or “Native” or “Latino” American actors to fulfill a role in a movie or television show, and yes every now and then seeking “Asian.” 2) Sometimes the role will be to “Open Ethnicity,” and all of us ethnic actors will get to audition against the Caucasian actors. I’ve been fortunate to book many of those roles and many producers and directors took a chance on me as I was the “other” choice, and for all those opportunities, I’m thankful.  3) But when it doesn’t explicitly state which ethnicity they are looking for, it’s assumed Caucasian. And yes, these are the majority of the roles that go out.

Now, I’m not telling you all of this to talk bad or reprimand the industry I was raised in or to complain about it all… Make no mistake, the industry is hard for everyone weather you’re a person of color or not. I have just as many “white” friends unemployed in this town as I do friends of color, maybe even more. I’m only telling you this to give you a reality check on how the town works. If you don’t know how something works you will never be able to change it. See, the fact is, it’s not an even playing ground, it’s just not, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t win… or at least put ourselves in the best position to win. An article came out a few years ago breaking down the statistics of ethnic roles for that year’s pilot season. Asians came in dead last, behind African American, Latino and Native American. And the reality is if there are no roles to play, it is hard to book jobs, as the handful of working Asian American actors can attest to. And many will also tell you that when they do book a coveted job, more often than not, it’s a character that reinforces some old Asian stereotypes, whether it be the nerd, or broken-English speaking foreigner or evil Kung Fu master, ninja, assassin, villain! Look, those jobs are out there and I don’t look down on any of my peers for playing them, hell, I would play one to be opposite the latest Hollywood star, and I definitely would give him a run for his money! But there is so much more to who we are as Asian Americans.

And yes, I stress, Asian “American.” As much as I love Jackie Chan or Chow Yun Fat and all the wonderful cinema coming out of Hong Kong or Tokyo or Korea. It doesn’t speak to me in the same way or capture of the spirit of Asians in America. I know “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is great, and some will say it’s so acclaimed in Hollywood and even won an Oscar, but it won an Oscar as best “Foreign” film… Hey, we’re not “foreigners!” We’re American and it’s time for us to have a voice.

See, in the last few years I have received a handful of achievement and “Role Model” awards from the Asian American community and I’ve graciously accepted them. I’ve always understood that in the United States, the average American who didn’t necessarily know Asians, would be exposed to the handful of characters they would come across in film or television and like it or not, they we would make assumptions and form their ideas about Asians based in large part by those roles. I have been able to play roles that were non-stereotypical over my career and helped broaden what it means to be Asian. I understood that, but I always felt I’m just an actor with a certain degree of fame and I’ve done my work and hopefully I’ve helped to open some doors for our community, but what else can I do… And that’s when this company started taking place.

I guess I always just imagined that after the work I did and others including John Cho, Justin Lin, Margaret Cho and many others, Hollywood would just catch on to how cool Asians are and somehow just co-op the whole community and start making Asian American movies and television shows. It just hasn’t happened and I am no longer waiting for that dream to come true. I’ve realized that it is on us, Asian America, as a community to carve out our own voice and be responsible to tell our own stories. Now some people may jump to conclusion that Hollywood is racist. I wouldn’t advise you to go there. Not only does it not help anything, I’m not sure if it’s actually true. Hollywood is actually just a big business and as it comes down to the dollar and what money can be made of it. As of yet, we as a community haven’t proven to be a bankable commodity for them to cater to and part of that is probably on us. I once was in a meeting with a public relations company for an Asian American film and was discussing how to promote to the Asian American market. Their answer was, they don’t promote to the Asian American market. The reasoning went further to explain that as a whole, the Asian American community is primarily affluent, live in the neighborhoods they want, drive the cars they want and their children go to the schools they desire and consequently whatever they promote to mainstream America or “white” America, Asians will buy, so why spend an extra dollar to a community that they already promote to? Again, as far as business goes, I get their point of view and once again it comes back to us – if we want our voice to count and our dollars to matter in this country we have support the people that we believe in, whether it’s downloading tracks, going to see their movies or watching their YouTube videos. Look how we rallied around Jeremy Lin this year.

All that leads me to creating Kinetic Films. Our company is making movies and helping to create stars, Asian American stars. My first motive is to help create and add to the Asian American genre by consistently putting out quality films. And what I mean by this is, we are currently fulfilling our first year’s slate of four films consisting of two comedies, a drama and a musical. We have shot our first two films and won awards in festivals in Hawaii and Los Angeles and we are currently shooting our third film in Honolulu, Hawaii. Also, I’m in the middle of writing the script for the musical, which is scheduled to be shot before the end of the year. The second aim of the company is to seek out the talent of the next generation and help cultivate them – teaching them the craft of acting by giving them richer roles to play, teaching them how to make movies and equip them to succeed in the entertainment industry and simply employ them. My hope is, if we can make four films a year, we’ll look back a few years from now and see a library of films we’ve made for the community we’re proud of and hopefully one or two films, as well as one or two of our actors, will have crossed over to mainstream success… And we would have a place to call our own in the Hollywood landscape that was created on our own terms, self-sustainable by our own community – not unlike what Tyler Perry was able to accomplish for the African American community.

And now, the new talent I speak of starts of with our collaborations with Kevin Wu of KevJumba Productions. He’s already a star in his own right in the YouTube world and is a major voice of his generation and is starring and co-producing our debut film, “Hang Loose,” with myself. Meeting him and AJ Rafael (who is the star of our upcoming musical, “Red Roses”) influenced and inspired me immensely. They looked up to me as a veteran Asian American actor they grew up watching, and they’ve taught me so much about the new generation and how much YouTube has and social media has changed the world, especially in the realm of the Asian American movement. The predominance of YouTube has created stars like Kev and AJ, who have subscriber and view counts to rival the television audience or Nielsen rating of primetime shows on any given night, along with Ryan Higa, Wong Fu Productions, Tim De la Ghetto, Freddie Wong, Victor Kim, as well as many others, proving that we’re a large audience with immense talent and we enjoy seeing artist that look like us.

This company is very experimental and all of us involved have jumped in with that in mind and with a hope of something bigger in our hearts. We ultimately hope to impact the world and the industry, letting everyone know we exist and to add our stories to American pop culture. I want to spread the word of our company, Kinetic Films, and I want to community at large to support what we’re doing, to understand the importance of what we’re setting out to do, we’re making movies and we want everyone to buy the films, download them and enjoy them with hopes of succeeding enough to be able to continue to make films to put out more and more stories into the world. I am not naïve to believe we will rival the box office numbers of mainstream movies, but we don’t have to. We are creating micro-budgeted films that can realistically make their money back and more to be invested in future films, I believe we have come up with a self sustainable model and we can possibly make movies forever. That’s success.

So our first film, “Hang Loose,” is coming out December 14th 2012, with Kevin Wu, Justin Chon and myself. You can download when it’s released at kineticfilms.com and I would love and appreciate anyone who can spread the word. I don’t think that this all will happen overnight… But I think we can make it happen.