Interview with “Linsanity” Producer, Brian Yang

Brian Yang

Article by Yvonne Lo
Photo Credit Niko

Brian Yang is a Taiwanese-American actor and producer, most known for his role as “Charlie Fong” on “Hawaii Five-0”. He was born in Columbus, Ohio, raised in the Bay Area, California, and currently lives in New York, New York. While at school at UC Berkeley, he fell into acting by taking a Dramatic Arts course for fun and he’s never stopped since. Along the way, he’s worked in film, television, and theatre as an actor. Brian has had parts on General Hospital and VIP with Pamela Anderson on television and has done commercials that have aired worldwide for HSBC, Buick, The Wall Street Journal, and Microsoft. On screen, he was perhaps best known for his role as “Little Yu” in Alice Wu’s 2005 Sundance hit “Saving Face” where he was Joan Chen’s younger secret love. At the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, Brian’s short film “Red Shoes”, directed by Singaporean director Li-Anne Huang, made its premiere.

Recently, Brian has turned his attention to producing as well and thus has started a production company, 408 Films, along with some partners, with the intent of producing features that hold international cross-over appeal. His latest project is Linsanity: the Movie a documentary on Jeremy Lin.

AsianInNY: When filming, was it challenging to film Jeremy Lin as friends?

Brian Yang: When we started this process, we weren’t really friends. We became friends through the process. When you shoot a documentary, it’s important to maintain a distance with a subject. If you’re too close to them, it will be like shooting a family member or a friend. You need to keep the separation, so you can tell the difference. With Jeremy being so easygoing and light-hearted, it’s hard to not become his friend. We’re good friends now. We text, we keep in touch. If we’re ever in the same city, we’ll see his game, catch up. He’s been helping us with his movie promotions too. In fact, last night he went to one of his screenings in Houston and bought everyone popcorn and drinks. His job is in Houston now; he’s currently in training camp. He surprised everyone and it was a lot fun down there. He’s been really supportive of the movie project, and we’re very thankful to him for giving us the opportunity for letting work with him.

AsianInNY: How do you tell a story about Jeremy Lin, that everyone already knows, and how do you communicate that to everyone who has heard the story of Jeremy Lin?

Brian Yang: Well, Linsanity was documented so well during the frenzy; you either have to be dead or living under a rock to have not heard about it. Even if you weren’t a sports fan or Asian-American, or anything that Jeremy Lin identifies with, he certainly became a global phenomenon. I think it was really challenging for us because we were thrust with this responsibility suddenly to tell his story in a way that would peel away the superficial layer of what everyone knew. Obviously, that’s part of the story and we wanted to revisit it during the special of Linsanity, the star.

It’s exciting to see him in a game where he dunks and destroy Kobe on NBA. Jeremy was very reluctant to this project initially we pitched to him when he was still a senior in Harvard, so that was actually something years of making. He didn’t like it that we had cameras following him around, wasn’t into the whole idea of Big Brother, he was just a simple kid who wanted to play basketball. But, ultimately, I think he warmed up to the idea and gave us the “yes” when he was at Golden State.

We, together, wanted to create his message, tell it through his eyes, through his point of view. Because with everything that’s out there, fans have made, sport centers runs, quick clips and snips that you can find on Youtube, I mean, he does a lot of those silly videos. You don’t get to really know him through his own voice, through his stories, his own family, his coaches, through all the people that are so close to him, growing up all on the way. We really wanted to take the audience on that journey, and have him it told through his own authentic voice, to give you the real story of Jeremy. There’s a lot of stuff in there you could have found or read, but this was collectively put together comprehensively having been lucky and to be there from the beginning, such as two days after Christmas when he’s on his way to New York and he doesn’t know what the future holds or some moment at Harvard when it was actually unauthorized, when he hadn’t said “yes” yet, we were secretly taping some things.

I always say the making of the movie is also interesting itself in as a story and how we put together everything and what happened throughout the process. This is a combination of years of effort and Jeremy’s participation, in terms of amount of input of his story, he steers the ship and we would consult with him about it. He watched the film, and would say, “I like this,” he didn’t have too many negative comments on it; we just wanted his stamp of approval.

AsianInNY: Jeremy Lin has become such a global phenomenon, representing the Asian-American community. I see the film does not touch upon it much. Do you witness the transformation? Can you address on that?

Brian Yang: Well, Jeremy is a very much where he is a role model to the Asian-American community. He’s very proud to be Asian. Part of his motivation in doing well in basketball, came from the people who comment racist statements, stereotypes about Asian basketball players not being able to play basketball, and he wanted to prove them wrong. He’s someone who leads by example and I understand that the community wants him to be more outspoken, to be a vocal leader, and the topic of the movie doesn’t really deal with this. It’s through leadership by performance. So, every time he puts on a uniform, every time he wears his sneakers, and goes and plays, he is speaking for our community. To always talk about being Asian-American and I’m doing this for my community is not fair to him. He wants to just play.

I think the more people who come to the limelight, and not just basketball, it could be a politician, an artist, or someone doing anything nontraditional. I think the more we get uphold and not talk about the fact that “I’m Asian, listen to me or watch me do this and that because of my race,” then we’re getting to be a better person in America’s society. So, I think he’s aware of it, but it’s not something he’ll do every day.

AsianInNY: How do you think being Asian-American or Taiwanese-American play a role in how Jeremy’s career unfolded and where it might go?

Brian Yang: That is certainly part of his story and it follows. He got so much publicity in part because he’s Asian because he’s doing something so un-stereotypical, he sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s not 7 foot 6. He’s very relatable, in that, he’s so ordinary that he’s the most extraordinary ordinary person you’ll ever meet. Because he sucks at piano, he’s really a funny guy if you get to know him, but it’s not like he oozes charisma and is this leading man. He’s like your brother, your lab partner, the guy in the choir that never sang that stood in the back, a student leader into politics, and you probably read some of this stuff already.

For him to done what he did, it’s truly a miracle. Because I think the fact that he’s Taiwanese-American, Asian-American, that elevates him into the spotlight, and brings our community forward too and we has film maker it’s very important that we get our stories heard. Yes, his story is very interesting and it’s an easier sell but what we hope this does, and this is a testament bringing the audience out here, is that our stories are commercial; they can be in the mainstream. So every Jeremy Lin story that happens, every guy or girl gets another opportunity because of Jeremy’s story that will move us in right direction. His story hasn’t ended, he certainly got a long career ahead of him, whether it’s on the court or not, he’s already proven himself to be able to handle anything. He always talks about life after basketball already, what he wants to do. He still has a long exciting career left on the basketball courts, so next season is going to be really interesting to see what happens. Everyone is really excited. I think it’s good for him to be in Houston because it gets him away the intense spotlight of being in this media market here. So, a lot of people think went away, he couldn’t sustain three-points a game a career, it’s just not possible. Now he’s in a place where he doesn’t have to be under the intense scrutiny all the time by everyone. I’m excited for his career. Now he’s got a good house around him. He’s going to continue to propel, get our community forward.

I hear a lot people who already put their kids in basketball camp, I’m letting them do things they want to do, because Jeremy Lin’s story transcends for them. It helps the ultimate underdog, who goes against the grain, every façade. Whether you’re an athlete, a politician, a teacher, and entrepreneur, anyone down on their luck or struggling, take a piece of Jeremy’s Lin story with you and put that into your own life. So certainly for us, as a community it’s important for us to support one another. So, supporting us by coming to see the film and telling your friends you liked it that helps us as a group too. Especially with the media, it’s such a powerful tool, the more our story gets told, the more understanding and discussions, and things of interest happen. It’s very important for us to get the word out!

Brian Yang is a big supporter of the Asian-American community and will get his hands involved to continue pushing our community forward.  Catch Brian Yang at all the “Linsanity the Movie” film screenings and let’s continue to support each other. Let’s help get the word out.

Avatar photo

About AsianInNY is New York’s leader in Asian networking and a multi-cultural entertainment site. AsianInNY has established itself as the premier social and cultural authority for Asians in New York City. AsianInNY maintains the highest standards in providing reliable online content and producing live offline events. AsianInNY seeks to inspire, educate, and connect our community, using a versatile platform that engages our audience via a multi-layered digital presence that showcases the best of New York City. Our pages are updated daily with a rich cultural mix of news, events, interviews, and more. AsianInNY: Connect with Everything Asian!