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The next generation of Asian artists making their mark online, in film and on TV

The next generation of Asian artists making their mark online, in film and on TV
Jason Tobin, left, Parry Shen and Roger Fan in "Better Luck Tomorrow." (MTV Films)

Young artists from the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County are increasingly reflecting and sharing their experiences in film, theater, TV and, most actively, new media.

"I think there has been an evolution in terms of thinking about what it means to be Asian American and what it means to become Americans. And that has been reflected in the works of different Asian American authors," playwright David Henry Hwang said, noting recent theatrical works of Julia Cho, Lauren Yee and Lloyd Suh. "I think in more recent years there has been a greater sense of internationalism — that you can be someone who can be comfortable in an American culture and an Asian culture and in fact many people go back and forth, which is quite different from C.Y. [Lee]'s generation and even mine."

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Hwang's first play was set in Torrance and told the story of conflicts between established "American born Chinese" and more recently arrived immigrants.

On TV, the new CW comedy "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," is set in West Covina with an Asian male romantic lead (Filipino Vincent Rodriguez III as Josh Chan). What follows is a selection of films and new media telling the story of shifting Chinese American suburbs:

"Better Luck Tomorrow" (2002): Before he became known as the director of four films in "The Fast and the Furious" franchise (and the announced director of the next "Star Trek" film), Justin Lin directed this film about a crew of over-achieving Asian American high school seniors in Orange County who get involved in extra-curricular criminal activities. The Taiwan-born Lin was raised in Cypress and loosely based the film (which he wrote with Ernesto Foronda and Fabian Marquez) on the real-life murder of a teenage boy by four high school honor students. After a successful premiere at Sundance, MTV acquired the film.

"Shopping for Fangs" (1997): Lin's first feature film was co-directed with Quentin Lee when they were students at UCLA. It tells the campy story of Asian American young people (and a possible werewolf) in the San Gabriel Valley.

"Love Arcadia" (2015): An independent feature-length romantic comedy starring Arcadia-raised Anthony Ma, who defends the family boba shop from a developer. The tagline: A boy. His tea shop. And the girl who burst his bubble.

Wong Fu Productions: Three Chinese American young men formed Wong Fu in 2004 while students at UC San Diego. Based since then in the San Gabriel Valley, their short videos — "What Asian Parents Don't Say," "Who Pays on a First Date?" "Accidental Racism" — have amassed a following of more than 2.5 million subscribers to their YouTube channel and have been presented at Cannes among other international festivals. In 2015 they released a feature-length film, "Everything Is Before Us."

Fung Brothers: Two brothers from Seattle, the Fung brothers landed in the San Gabriel Valley for a few years, where they crafted a viral ode to the 626 and its tea houses, Hong Kong-style cafés and Chinese American culture. They also created memorable videos about basketball star Jeremy Lin and boba. They've since relocated to New York with a deal to create an A&E food travel show "What the Fung?!"

Just Kidding Films: A Monterey Park-based online video production company, founded by Bart Kwan and Joe Jo. Popular with teens, Just Kidding Films has more than 700,000 YouTube subscribers. Its video series "Crazy Asian Parent" has received more than 2 million views.

Twitter: @dhgerson

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