When did you start working in film?
LANLIN WONG: I guess you could say my passion for film first started when I was a teenager. I used to go to lots of punk rock and hardcore shows, and I would use my dad's Sony Hi8 camera to film all the bands for myself. After a while, I got creative and would put a camera in the back of the room and have another camera in my hand as I was being tossed around in the pit at the front of the stage. Then, I would attempt to edit all the footage together, which, to be honest, never turned out that well. I think I still have a collection of tapes in a box somewhere ... When I got to college I majored in Film and Media Studies, though our program didn't have a heavy emphasis on production. I helped work on a few student films that were shot on DV or super8, but my first real film production experience was when one of my college friends got funding for his first feature "Under the Gaydar." It was shot during summer break, and I came on as a production assistant and slept on his floor for five weeks in Los Angeles. I learned a ton from that experience.
CHARLES AGRON: Actually, I did not set out to become involved in entertainment. I had studied both pre-law and pre-med and was torn between becoming a doctor or an attorney. I ended up working in Washington DC for a lobbyist group that represented doctor's rights. While I was in DC, I auditioned for and got a spot in an acting program at 20th Century Fox. I flew back and forth between LA and DC. I eventually landed a leading role in a feature film. It was there that I realized my political background, along with my knowledge of entertainment became the perfect start for my production company.
From where do you draw inspiration for your work?
WONG: I think my early experiences with filming bands has made pairing music and film a big passion of mine. I have directed and produced a handful of music videos, which for me is probably my favorite form to work on. I also have some pretty interesting life experiences to draw from, mostly from the eclectic group of friends I have had my whole life. I have always found the humorous side of almost any situation or experience; so, I am never afraid to laugh or make light of anything. Hopefully that translates in my films.
AGRON: I have two main genres that I work in: Horror and Comedy. My feature film 'Haunted' was inspired by greats such as Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock, and Stanley Kubrick. 'The Shining' really inspired me; it did such an amazing job of making the audience uncomfortable. I fully believe that less is more when it comes to scary movies. In the comedy genre, I have been influenced by Jerry Lewis and Lucille Ball, as well as, the modern legends like Larry David. I believe in exploiting uncomfortable circumstances so that the audience can feel the embarrassment and drama that the character is feeling.
From start to finish, explain your process.
WONG: Every day is different, obviously. I suppose to condense the whole process, most of my ideas start with poking fun at something stupid and ludicrous in our culture. Then I begin to obsess over that idea, and realize that if I am that interested in it, perhaps others will be too. The idea gets constructed and built upon. Next thing I know, I have a script and am making phone calls to see who wants to come on board. Then, we see what resources we have, how much money/time we need and, before we know it, we are filming. I have a handful of friends who I usually work with, but for the most part I am involved directly in the whole process, from start to finish. At the end of it all, we celebrate and go drinking.
AGRON: Unfortunately for me, a typical film-making day for me is not what one thinks. There is a lot of business involved and lots of logistics. It's funny because one of the most peaceful times that I can have is after the Director yells 'action.' Nothing else is in my mind except for trying to create a great scene.
My job entails that I am involved in the idea-making, putting together a top-notch crew, performing, and then, overseeing the edit. It is a lot of work, but if you just imagine the crowd going wild over the piece of art that you have created, it makes it all worth it.
What sort of techniques/styles do you most like working with?
WONG: I love camera movements; the more a camera can move, the more freedom I feel like I have to best create a scene. I recently got to do a lot of my own steady camera work with "The Charles Agron Show," and I felt like I had absolute full control to direct the scene.
Are there any filmmakers, past or present, who strongly inform and influence your work?
WONG: I think Michel Gondry was the first director who really wowed me with how playful and innovative he could be with his music videos. I definitely try to be playful with my characters and situations as often as I can.
Are there any specific reoccurring themes or subjects that you explore and deal with most in your films?
WONG: None so far that I have intentionally expressed at this point. Now, you got me thinking though...
Any previous films/collaborations that you are most proud of?
WONG: I produced a music video spoofing BoA, a huge Asian pop star. We redid the entire song to be about an obsession with pork buns. It was ridiculous and tons of fun!
Any current rising stars within the genre that you would recommend we look out for?
WONG: I would recommend ALL our actors in "The Charles Agron Show"! It was fantastic working with everyone; I have never laughed so hard during production as I did in this one.
RSVP for the RAW Santa Monica Showcase to see a screening of "The Charles Agron Show" on Thursday, February 4th!