DS: They’re more focused on that one space, and it’s just their taste. But you can’t crossover into film expecting that you know everything, and vice versa. Doing this film was a foreign thing to me, and I wanted to get rid of the notion that “because I’ve done this, I should be able to figure this out.” When we were on set, I couldn’t wrap my head around what you were doing. You were doing specific shots, and when i saw it I was like, “It looks good!” Then you’re like “Nah, I hate it.” Filmmakers need to have a more extended vision.
JC: Well, it’s just different.
DS: It’s very specific. I’ve been on YouTube for so long, and there’s a lot of things that you can get away with in a five minute segment. If a word wasn’t said right, if the lighting goes a little bit off or you didn’t get a shot, you’re not going to scrap your whole project. You’re like, “Well, I’m on a schedule. I’m going to put it out.” But film is such a craft. It’s like, “If my vision isn’t met in this shot, then what’s the whole point?” Because you have to be invested from beginning to end.
JC: Absolutely. We’re in a really cool time because look at music, there’s the traditional recording artists like Drake, but now you have people like Chance. There’s all these SoundCloud artists, and it’s like YouTube in that the people get to vote. When you see somebody has millions and millions of plays, it’s undeniable that people like it, yet they’re operating independently of the industry. They have their fan base and make such a great living, but it’s dictated by the audience. There’s always capitalism trying to find a way to corporatize media or art, but I’m excited for the future and how people can create really innovative stuff without relying on corporatization.
“There’s always capitalism trying to find a way to corporatize media or art, but I’m excited for the future and how people can create really innovative stuff without relying on corporatization.”
— Justin Chon
DS: I mean, YouTube started as a platform without a monetary incentive. There wasn’t a working model because there wasn’t money involved. When money isn’t involved, you literally just create just to create. The creativity level on YouTube was the same because everybody’s channel was a little bit different. On a platform that becomes corporatized, like YouTube—Google owns it now, and there is a lot of money involved—everybody’s channels start looking exactly the same. Which was a little disheartening for me because not only was I a creator, I was also an avid watcher of YouTube.
JC: Watch Vimeo. Vimeo will help pay to get your short made, but most people are there because they love the huge artistic community supporting each other. But YouTube is great in its own way, which I guess is the argument. When you do a film through a studio, or you make an album through a label, they’ll put up they have resources for a real PNA budget and things that help you reach a wider audience. Those SoundCloud artists are still finding their audience. YouTube was once like that, but there will always be something else.
DS: There’s always creators and innovators.
JC: You just went to Paris, and I was in Amsterdam. I went to the Van Gogh Museum, and I was reading about him like, “This motherfucker’s just like me.” He had his art he wanted to do and all his homies that thought the same way. But he was trying to do portraits because that’s how people made money. How is now any different than a hundred years? I’ll do something that’s commercial because I need to make a living, and then I’ll do indie films because I love the art of it. I think it’ll be like this forever.
“When money isn’t involved, you literally just create just to create.”
— David So
DS: Mona Lisa, I just saw that shit. That shit was wack… As an actor and now as a director, what is your next project? What inspires you?
JC: This film had a lot of social issues, and I don’t just want to make social issues films. But this was a huge eye-opener that if you make a compelling piece of art, it affects people and has reach. So I created this platform where people might listen to me if I make something else. I’m thinking about how to utilize that to bring awareness to something I care about and can also be passionate about. Those are the type of projects I’m looking for. I’m inspired by people who just get it done and are artistic and have no boundaries, like those SoundCloud artist. They stay true to themselves, and that’s what I hope not to lose as I continue my career. How about you?
DS: I don’t know, man. The whole Sundance experience—it’s like one of those bucket list things. You don’t think the first film you create with your friend is going to go to Sundance, let alone win an award. For me it was like, “Okay this is my first thing. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but let’s see where it will take me.” And then Sundance happened, and that box got checked faster than I expected. I used to think that when I wanted something, there would be a progression. I wanted to be a great stand-up comedian, so I started when I was 16 and worked on it over and over, and I’m like, “Well, for the next 20-30 years maybe I can get to the point where I’m happy with it.” But with Sundance, things happened a lot quicker than I expected which caught me off guard. I like living by challenges, not expectation, so I’m trying to figure out what the next thing is that’s going to push me. Maybe I actually prefer creating than acting in someone else’s stuff. What is that goal that’s going to push me to hone this craft that I want to be a part of? When we were doing Gook, I hired a team to manage everything else while I worked on it. I made sacrifices because I had a very specific goal. I haven’t figured out what my next goal is, but I know it’s going to be somewhat in film.