Living in an area that isn’t renowned for its artistry can be challenging for creative types. For those that live in the infamous DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia) and choose to work in film production, work is often riddled with public policy videos, talking head interviews and weddings.
Team Red Productions wasn’t going to let their zip code dictate the type of work they aspired to create. From Jackie Chan-style cosplay action films to Guillermo Del Toro-ish creature horror, Team Red has created a community for those that seek to work on their passions and themselves. Quirktastic got the chance to speak with Team Red’s founder, Joseph Le, about the collective and what it takes to do anything, anywhere.
Q: What inspired you to create Team Red and how did you all (officially) start?
JL: We first formed in 2015 for the DC 48 Hour Film festival. The team was comprised of a bunch of people whom I worked with in other indie productions. However, I wanted to approach Team Red differently and NOT aim for monetary gain or internet fame, but instead focus primarily on SKILL DEVELOPMENT, risk-taking ideas, and achieving long-term career goals. The most important thing for me was to get to know each team member’s stories… what they wanted to become, what types of films were they itching to create, and what personal stories do they want to be told? And then I would try to mold each film project towards achieving those goals.
During our first meeting, we weren’t afraid to express our crazy ideas to each other… and it felt like a safe haven for misfits and marginalized creative professionals. Each person in the past was screwed over from someone who didn’t understand the creative process… and each person had dreams bigger than making corporate videos. We bonded by talking about our insecurities, self-identity issues, cultural background, and frustrations with our current careers.
So in the end with that general framework, each person would come out of a project more fulfilled than getting tons of dopamine hits online.
I’ve been able to build my way up from just being an editor, to being a camera operator, action choreographer, director, screen fighter, storyboard artist, script writer, and so on.
Q: What have been some challenges as you’ve grown TEAM RED?
JL: JUGGLING w/ a FULL TIME JOB
My biggest challenge was trying to juggle a full-time job while making films over the weekend, and sacrificing personal relationships for the sake of making art without getting paid. There were a lot of times when I had to use my vacation days in order to finish projects. And often, I’d take naps during work lunch because shooting would most often wrap up past 1am. BUT, I knew that this would all pay off in the long-term and that I was on my way to becoming a great director/creative visionary. There were films that only WE could create and bring into the world, and I felt that was a moral obligation with the talent/perspective that we had as a team.
Going off on a tangent, but because of these challenges… I’ve been able to literally TRANSFORM my career from designing websites to working for Telltale Games as a Cinematic Artist, then currently as a Storyboard Artist for Rooster Teeth’s RWBY series.
Another challenge was working around everyone’s busy schedules and keeping up the shooting momentum. Every meeting/shooting date matters, and if one shoot gets cancelled… then it’s often hard to bring back the momentum. I guess I never had a consistent Producer who I worked alongside with… and I failed on the recruiting side of that role.
Q: As an Asian American, why do you think it’s important to create the content you do?
JL: Because I still don’t see the true essence of the Asian American experience captured on film… or at least my interpretation of it.
I don’t think I am that great of a storyteller yet to tap into this truth and convey it on screen, but I’m getting there with each and every project.
Overall, I feel like we as a society can move much further together and have greater empathy towards another if more of these multi-cultural stories are told.
I feel like my Asian American generation was caught in the middle of a radical threshold, being raised by war-torn refugee parents and finding our identity in the new millennium. I’m interested in exploring the particular narratives about isolation, obsession, ego-destruction, and finding oneself through total immersion in art.
I chose this path because I find the creative process to be incredibly fulfilling for my soul, and I just want to demonstrate that you don’t have to wait for anyone else to do what you really want to do. Once you channel all of your energy into your passion, no matter how odd or unforgiving the process is… it’s inevitable that the earnest energy you put out will attract like-minded people.
Q: We’ve heard you all just won [awards] in the 2018 Urban Action Showcase! Congratulations! What has your favorite project to date been and what’s a quirky story behind its production?
JL: Yeet! Thank you! My favorite project to date was actually a very rough Pokemon GO PSA that I made with my friends Vinh Le and Sam Song in under 4 hours. Back when Pokemon GO was absolutely crazy, I saw a few people almost get into car accidents from trying to play Pokemon GO while driving. The addiction was real. And so I decided to dress up as Ash Ketchum and depict what it would be like if I accidentally ran over my beloved Pikachu because I was driving under the influence of Pokemon GO. Afterwards, I posted the video on Facebook and it got over 25k views (not bad for a small fry like me). Friends were tagging people who had bad habits with playing the game during traffic. It was rewarding to know that this random idea helped bring safety/awareness to a brand new issue.
Q: What’s some advice you have for others wanting to start a similar content/production team?
JL: I advise other team leaders to keep telling the origin story to your teammates and constantly remind them why you’re doing this. Be like Steve Jobs, but don’t be an asshole. Also, never let the saltiness get the best of you. Keep it positive, but also don’t be afraid to confront your teammates one-on-one who are being hypocritical and toxic.
And be sure to recruit members who are willing to do it for the love of the craft, and don’t have high expectations for individuals who don’t have their own creative portfolio.
NEVER say “we should.” In almost every meeting, someone’s always saying to the team, “we should do this” and “we should make a web series,” without taking any initiative or writing an action step that goes towards accomplishing that goal. Instead, you should say “I will… start a script/message the actor/change the callsheet/etc.” I’d like to treat each film like a small tech startup, and encourage proactivity rather than imposter syndrome.
Q: What are your goals for TEAM RED? Where do you see it heading in the future?
JL: Right now, I just want to work with other great artists who are leagues above me and make Vimeo Staff Pick level films.
I’d love to develop somewhat of an action filmmaking curriculum or my own “Jeet Kune Do” on creating low-budget films, and finding a way to make tutorials that will help people bring their own visions to life. At the same time, martial arts is a big part of the current team which separates ourselves from most filmmaking crews… and I want to somehow make content that promotes self-discovery through the creative process and physical training.
Speaking of goals, one of our screen fighters/stunt performers just got offered a contract by Cirque du Soleil! 🙂
Want to follow Team Red on their adventures? Be sure to check them out on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube to get updates on what’s to come next!