As a filmmaker and as a blogger here on 8Asians, I get hit up to write about everyone and their mother’s webseries. While I’ve seen a lot of good ones (don’t worry, yours was great!), I mostly see a lot of really bad webseries. That’s why when my friend, Tom Huang, sent me an email about his newest project, Unusual Targets, I didn’t have very high hopes for it. However, because I love Tom’s films and writing (see bio at the end of the article) I gave it a shot.
To my surprise, I enjoyed it. Not just enjoyed it, I REALLY enjoyed it. I loved that he chose to have an Asian American lead in a supernatural hitman series. Rarely do I see the Asian American community a part of supernatural world (minus a few famous examples, like Steven Yeun from Walking Dead). But even more rarely do I see Asian American leads in such projects. And then there’s the pure technical aspect of it: It looks beautiful. It doesn’t look like your typical low-budget webseries that we’re all pretty much accustomed to now.
I sat down with Tom and asked him a few questions about his new project:
1. What’s Unusual Targets about?
Unusual Targets follows the story of Lee Ling, a guy trying to get into the family business that’s been going on for centuries since his father came to America from China. It turns out that business is being a hitman for hires a hitman specializing in supernatural beings, like vampires and werewolves. After his father was killed on the job when Lee was young, Lee is now trying to learn on-the-job.
2. Why did you cast an Asian American as the lead? Is it important for you as a filmmaker to cast Asian Americans in roles in your projects?
I always try to involve Asian Americans and/or a diverse cast in everything I write it’s part of the reason I got into the writing business, since I started realizing there wouldn’t be any good parts for Asian Americans unless Asian Americans started writing the roles themselves. I actually don’t feel comfortable writing something that’s an all-Asian American cast, as I prefer to have a story reflects the most interesting aspects of living in America today, that being a world where people of all different looks and cultures are mashed together to create interesting tales and characters. Sometimes this is harder to force this when I’m a writer-for-hire, and I’m okay with that but when I do my own, personal projects such as Unusual Targets, then I really try to mix it up.
As for the lead character, Lee, I was looking to create someone whose family background involved a culture rich in legends of monsters and magic, and the Chinese culture was just perfect. Really, there are a quite a number of diverse cultures that could work as well, but my own familiarity with Chinese lore made it easier to decide on that for Lee’s background.
3. Is there a connection between supernatural elements and Asian culture?
Oh absolutely Asians across the board are probably one of the most superstitious cultures out there with their beliefs in the power of numbers and all sorts of folklore. The Chinese in particular are full of stories of the supernatural, from the famous Monkey King tales to dragons to the ghosts of ancestors, it’s all great stuff. Sometimes the stories I’ve heard from my parents and relatives are a little strange in their structure and the lessons that’s supposed to come from it, but it’s all interesting and rich in history.
4. Any advice to Asian Americans who want to get into entertainment?
Pretty much just do it. Sure, there are still barriers to getting stories about Asian Americans out there, and casting Asians will always be tough in America, but I don’t know another time that there so many Asian Americans involved in the entertainment industry now, from executives to writers to directors to producers to actors to agents. It’s a tough industry to outright succeed at, but at this point, I think Asian Ams have just a good shot to make it as anyone else. To me, it’s all about putting the work in, really do the things that will make you the best writer or producer or actor or whatever, and your talent should speak for itself. Much of Asian culture is about working hard to succeed, and the same applies here, I believe I can point too many of my friends and peers as examples. But you have to put the work in.
5. How can people see Unusual Targets?
The easiest way is to simply go to www.unusualtargets.com, where you can click to episodes on our YouTube channel, as well as info on the show. We premiere on Tuesday, December 9th, and have an eight-episode season, so be sure to check it out!
If you like it, please do subscribe to our YouTube channel, we’d love to keep you involved!
Who is Tom Huang?
Tom Huang has written for network television as well as being a multi-award-winning indie filmmaker. His first feature project, “freshmen“, an independent feature which he produced, wrote, and directed, follows the lives of four college freshmen in their first quarter of school. It was a film festival hit, winning the Audience Award for Best Feature at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, the Final Draft Original Screenplay Award at the Rhode Island International Film Fest, as well as earning a nomination for best independent feature at the Media Awards.
Afterwards, Tom started his television writing career, his last job writing for the critically lauded ABC sitcom “Sons & Daughters.” He has also written for the sitcoms “Still Standing” on CBS, and “The Mullets” on UPN. Tom¹s latest indie feature film, “Why Am I Doing This?”, has won Best Picture honors at the Houston Comedy Film Festival and the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, Best Independent Feature Film at the Chinese American Film Festival, and the Cinequest Film Festival’s Director’s New Vision Award.