Hey Yun: Angry Whimsical Ambition

March 3, 2015

Filmmaking came to me as an accidental
necessity. I was a struggling, chunky Korean American actress trying to find
work in New York City, and no one knew which box to put me in. It was hard
enough to come across interesting roles for actresses of color and people were
often thrown off by that fact that I couldn't check the boxes of “sidekick,”
“karate girl,” or “sexy Asian vixen.” I spent a good few years angry and
frustrated at the narrow-mindedness of this industry. I was hungry to act, grow
and show the world what I had to offer but my fat body, flawed skin and
ordinary looks seemed to limit those opportunities.

Rather than try to mold myself into a
role that I couldn't fit, I decided to make my own films as a way of creating
an elaborate audition tape. It was daunting in the beginning, since I’d never
gone to school for filmmaking or writing, but I had nothing to lose. I started
by imagining characters I wanted to play, and built the worlds and stories
around them.

Wildly inspired by comedian Louis C.K.'s
self titled show Louie, In 2013 I
created Hey Yun, a comedy about an angry whimsical Korean artist. If
people could get engaged in a funny shlubby white man’s self reflections and
stories, why couldn't it be the same for an Asian woman counterpart? And I
simply went for it! With a micro-budget and the volunteer talents of artist
friends, I filmed four episodes in four days.

A part of me was scared. I wondered,
“What if I’m never cast in other people’s projects? What if all the acting I’ll
ever do is only in my own scripts?” But the result was quite the contrary. By
embracing roles in which I could own myself, I think ultimately I’ve become a
better actor. That sense of empowerment has gotten me cast in several other
projects by people who have seen me act in my own work. Writing, directing,
performing, and sharing these four little episodes, fully about me, my
experiences and observations, was one of the most invigorating moments of my
life. We had a successful launch of the first season,
garnering a strong fan base, mainstream media attention, awards,
and several film festival screenings in Los
Angeles and in New York. People dubbed it as smart critique of "hipster
racism” and microaggressions.

The process has also helped me grow
deeper as an artist. It forced me to become clearer on my voice and on the
worlds and people I am interested in. After making my own work, I learned that
what turns me on as an artist is to let people see the strange mix of who I am,
part childlike whimsy, part abrupt, explosive, and sometimes grotesque adult --
not a type of character that’s often seen in roles for women of color. I'm most
curious about these kinds of characters: the modern day misfits that are
finding their authentic voices, encountering their tribes, and their struggles
to survive along the way.

A year later, I am ready to launch Season
2 of Hey
-- the Web Series. This time I crafted the series in mockumentary style.
Breaking of the fourth wall inspired stories that were more honest, immediate,
and visceral of the struggles as a misfit artist desperate to succeed. It shows the highs and lows of
striving for your dream in NYC while broke and disillusioned within a so-called
“post-racial” America. In six new episodes, we see Hye Yun toddle through life
with a film crew following her ambitious “rise to success.”

I’m excited to
share the New York City underground artist world that I live and breathe in,
through the eyes of this angry but whimsical character. The premiere is at the end of
March, launching through Wifey tv (founded
by Rebecca Odes and Jill Soloway), a curated video network for women and women
as subject. The
trailer can be found on Seed&Spark
where I’m running a
crowdfunding campaign to finish post-production.

My enduring goal as a filmmaker and
storyteller is to keep shining light onto the "ugly" and the
"uncomfortable" in human forms, behaviors, psyches, and relationships
through raw storytelling sprinkled with humor and absurdities. I’d like to keep
creating more of these ugly and uncomfortable stories and characters for myself
and other women of color. It’s amazing that the storytelling landscape in
mainstream media is becoming more and more colorful, and I simply want to add
some more dust, dirt, curves and sparks to it.


Hye Yun is a writer, performer, filmmaker based in NYC. She has made 3 short films and successfully launched her award winning comedy web series HEY YUN. Her viral video FIRST KISS NYC was featured on Huffington Post, Daily Mail, Slate magazine and more.