We are all kinds of excited about up and coming film director Yulin Kuang and you should be too. She’s an innovative, creative filmmaker with a relatable, smart, girl-nerd point of view and, get to know her now, because she’s about to TAKE OFF. Her latest film, “I Ship It,” has been up a week on YouTube and already racked up 40,000 views and counting. And girl has FANS, people are making fan art for “I Ship It” like whoa, check it.
Kuang, a self-described “screenwriter, lady director, fangirl filmmaker, and general TV nerd, ” wrote/directed/produced “I Ship It,” a rom-com set in the world of wizard rock. “But what is wizard rock?” some of you may be wondering. “And what does it mean to ship something?” still others may ask. You guys are adorable, it’s like you’ve never been on the Internet before, gather round, all shall be revealed.
Wizard Rock is basically exactly what it sounds like: musicians who write songs inspired by the most famous wizards in pop-culture history: Harry Potter and Friends. And “I Ship It” (you guys, you should really know what shipping is, but on the off-chance you don’t, it’s when you get super obsessed with two fictional characters getting together) tells the story of Zoe (played by Mary Kate Wiles of “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”) who gets hardcore dumped by her boyfriend/wizard rock bandmate and, while embarking on a solo wizard rock career, finds new love with vlogger who’s also recently had his heart broken. How is this for 2014.
The film is sweet and adorable, but it also has its finger right on the pulse of the current moment. The script is funny and heartfelt and the direction is stylish and smart. Really, the only thing wrong with this film is the fact that its only twenty minutes long as opposed to an hour and a half feature-length rom com. The short is an A+ calling card for Kuang, and it’s clear that this girl is just beginning to make her mark on the filmmaking world.
“I Ship It” premiered on YouTube as a part of something called the New Form Digital Incubator series, which was set up to help filmmakers make the leap from the digital space to Hollywood. Though most filmmakers aspire to the big screen, Kuang is making the Internet work for her projects in super cool ways. For “I Ship It,” she created full-on music videos for the songs featured in her films, as well as creating an alternate ending for fans who are in the market for extras. For another recent project “Kissing In The Rain”—which follows the adventures of a movie star and starlet who are always cast in rom-coms together in which they, well, you know, kiss in the rain—Kuang encourages fans to contribute fan fiction, and whatever fan fiction she likes the best, she reblogs on the film’s Tumblr and it becomes official canon in the story from that point forward. What’s wonderful about Kuang’s work on the Internet is, rather than treating the medium as the minor leagues, a place to hang until the major leagues of film and television draft her on one of their teams, Kuang is utilizing the medium to tell stories in ways that are inventive, expansive, and fan-friendly.
Kuang also makes a point of casting Asian actresses as leads in her short films “Irene Lee, Girl Detective” and “Growing Up Flat-Chested” because she wants to “retroactively provide my younger self with a deeper sense of representation that I felt had been lacking.” In a Tumblr post regarding the matter, she further explains:
“I was tired of seeing Asian characters relegated to best friend status or tokenism on the movies and TV shows I’d grown up with, and I was also tired of seeing Asian American characters as leads only in films where their Asian-ness was a central focus of the plot (Better Luck Tomorrow and The Joy Luck Club come to mind – both considered to be critical hits, but not necessarily something I found representative of my own experiences growing up).”
She’s also honest about the challenges of diverse-minded casting as a young filmmaker with limited resources and a smaller (re: almost always whiter) casting pool, and in the interest of transparency, takes the opportunity of the Tumblr post to break down the casting process of each of her major projects so that fans can understand what has helped/hurt her when it comes to casting diversely.
On pins and needles for Kuang’s next work of cinematic greatness. In the meantime, you guys should check out “I Ship It,” linked below.