James Huang is an actor and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He wrote, directed and starred in the indie hit ‘Starting from Scratch’ and is self-distributing his most recent comedy ‘Get You Back’ which he wrote and directed. Both films can be found at: http://www.YellowSunFilms.com
What’s your story? How did you get started in the industry?
I was a theater arts and cinema studies major in college a hundred years ago. I got my SAG card in NYC acting in an episode of ‘Law & Order’ and I moved to LA immediately after that. I make a living primarily as an actor but I always wanted to create films and tell stories. As soon as I moved to LA in 2000 I took all the steps I could to start learning how to shoot and edit everything I could get my hands on. Everyone I met had a short film they wanted to make so I was often asked to help out and in doing so, I learned just about every job on set and dealt with all the production challenges you can face, especially on micro-budgets.
I wrote every spare moment I could and gathered friends to film dramatic shorts, comedic sketches, fight scenes; Just about anything and everything that interested me. I just kept on challenging myself to do better and go bigger until I started making feature films. My latest dedication is formally learning photography (at UCLA) to get better at cinematography as well as shooting portraits and making art pieces.
You often get a lot of badass roles on camera, do you get to show your softer sides much on screen?
I think playing a lot of cops, military guys and tough guys is precisely why I wrote and starred in ‘Starting from Scratch’ which is a feature film I made with my wife, Elizabeth Sandy (http://www.ElizabethSandy.com). It’s a very unromantic rom-com where I channel my version of Woody Allen or Jon Favreau in ‘Swingers’. I play Jake, a guy who is desperately trying to not feel heartbroken amid a divorce and an IRS audit. But while I like playing badass roles, I’m very much Jake from ‘Starting from Scratch’ on the inside. We won a bunch of festival awards that I’m very proud of.
Watch it here: (http://www.StartingFromScratchMovie.com)
What’s it like being both on the camera (acting) and behind it (editing, directing)?
I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Hahaha! But seriously, you have to be of two or three minds at all times and really know how to compartmentalize each task. Most actors I know say they’d never be able to edit themselves and rightfully so. It’s just too personal an experience to pour your heart out on camera along with all the other actors who are putting in the same effort and an try to maintain an objective editing and directing eye. Luckily, I’m pretty heartless so I find it easier than most artists who care too much and feel crippled in watching themselves. I also have my wife as my second pair of eyes and ears which is invaluable and likely the reason for any of my success as a filmmaker.
Being a director is like being the fair and disciplined parent, while being an actor is like being the loud kid who wants all the attention. Being the editor is like being the school principal who enforces all the rules and executes the curriculum that must be followed. It doesn’t go hand in hand to have the heart to accomplish all three tasks on the same project. I don’t know how I manage it to be honest. I go to therapy. It’s a comedy.
What’s been your greatest challenge(s) so far in getting a break?
I started auditioning in 1997 and somewhere around 2010, the proper pilot season disappeared and series regular roles only became largely available to established film and TV stars. And you’ll notice by watching any current TV show that weekly guest stars are always big film and TV stars as well. So really, this trend has been challenging to every gigging actor like me that isn’t famous. And it doesn’t help that every popular Asian story and character is getting whitewashed or yellow-faced again, but we don’t have to get into that here.
What’s been your favorite project to work on?
As an actor, ‘Starting from Scratch’ was definitely the most challenging and most rewarding role. As a filmmaker, it’s only getting better for me as I mature and get more competent at what I’m doing. In June 2017 we are self-distributing my latest feature that I wrote and directed (but do not act in) called ‘Get You Back’ which is another unromantic rom-com and is very much like a revenge play/comedy of errors. It’s about another heartbroken and desperate guy on the verge of suicide when a waitress stumbles upon him and takes pity on him. She convinces him to seek revenge on those who hurt him and together they have a twisted weekend adventure. Trailer: (https://youtu.be/Q31QDnZJ42Y)
Watch it here: (http://www.YellowSunFilms.com/get-you-back)
If film and photography (plus acting, editing, etc.) didn’t exist, what else would you do and why?
Adolescence is tough so I imagine being able to help out teenagers with their angst. I thought about being a high school art teacher and coaching football and wrestling after school. Perhaps because I peaked in high school and I gravitate back towards that time; You know, the Al Bundy syndrome. I did have a great time in high school though. #WWPHS94
Congrats on your new son! Any tips or advice for other industry parents?
Thank you. He’s not even two years old yet, so I’m not in a position to give advice. I’m too sleep deprived to offer anything useful to anyone else. Maybe just — marry the right person? Being a parent is as challenging as it is wonderful. You love and feel more than you ever have and your whole sense of self and purpose is just deposited into another human being that sort of looks like you. It’s pretty rad.
If you had to choose a song title as your life motto, what would it be?
Under Pressure by Queen. The whole song is full of doom and gloom until the final verse which is just beautiful poetry and all about loving each other before you die.