Robert Hoang gives us an inside scoop on how corner shop show has elevated in production & his role as "kenny chang"
Cinematographer, Director of Photography, Editor, Writer & Actor! Where and when did all this start for you? Did you attend a drama school or a film school? Tell us the story!
I did not go to a drama or film school. I’ve always been making little videos here and there using phone cameras back in the day but I started filming professionally in 2012. I started as an editor for Ramadan TV to create their shows on their channel. During this time I was forced to film as well due to lack of budget. The more I did it the more I wanted to improve with a keen interest. It was not long before I was told by my colleagues that I was excelling at cinematography. I still wanted to write and direct films so in 2013 I released “Zero Hour” an action short film which I wrote, directed and starred in. Since then my goal was to work on as many different projects as I could because I felt that each project not only grants experience but also furthers my skills as well.
Did you follow the traditional educational route of College & Uni? If so, what did you study? Was this to further your career?
I studied Chemistry, Biology and Computing at college and then went on to do Computing in University. I like many if not all members of the Asian community was raised to believe academia was the only path in life.
Is a career in the Film industry approved in your ethnic community? How do you deal with the pressure of not following traditionally approved careers for example ‘teaching, ‘medicine’ or ‘law’?
As I mentioned previously, filming or acting is another way of saying unemployed to any Asian parent. I’m actually quite lucky in the sense that I only received pressure early on from family. Since I don’t live with family I generally don’t keep them in the loop with what I’m doing. They know I film and make money from it but that’s pretty much it. If you still live with family I can see how this may become a record stuck on repeat situation for you.
Staying motivated as a creative is tough, How do you stay motivated?
As a great man once said (Michael Truong) life is all about the experiences with people. I may be paraphrasing or maybe he never said that at all but it doesn’t matter it still applies. I surround myself with other creative people who have their own goals and that keeps me motivated to achieve my own. This is not a field you can solo, you are going to need as much help as you can get. Here’s a tip. Cut out all the people around you with a negative vibe, that is the single biggest setback to your creativity. Maybe my age is showing but when you get to my stage in life, you know who your friends are and you don’t need keep any around you who isn’t.
Acting is also amongst the many talents under your belt, Tell us some things you do to prepare yourself for a role? Do you talk to yourself in front of a mirror? Do you practise your lines or re-phrase them as you perform?
I actually don’t think of myself as an actor. I’ve traditionally been forced to act because I didn’t know any actors. Things have changed recently, I know quite a few actors but surprisingly I also want to act now. I see the art in it, trying to convey the emotion or intent of a character is quite challenging but very rewarding if you manage to pull it off. I find that tapping into events in your own life with the relevant emotion is the best way to show that on screen. After all, if you believe it, the audience will believe it. I do tend to practice the lines beforehand slightly then I will give my feedback as I perform if I believe I have a better way of saying it.
Who are your biggest inspirations? In life and in your career? (Both behind the camera and in front)
Favourite director is James Cameron. Favourite actor is probably Gary Oldman in Hollywood and Dhanush in Bollywood. I follow Philip Bloom for cinematography and my friend Tien Ming has always inspired in life by excelling at everything he does.
Now let’s talk about Corner Shop Show! You play the role of ‘Kenny Chang’, can you tell us a bit about the character without giving any spoilers? Why did he steal Malik’s delivery?!
He needed milk. Kenny Chang is just your typical villain with a dark past. He’s cold, calculative and efficient. Kenny is a constant reminder of what Tony could have been if he took a different path. At the moment his character’s still a mystery but watch out for episode 10 as Kenny gets a lot more screen time and you will learn more about him.
Not only are you the DOP AND Co-Director for Corner Shop Show, but you’ve come on board as a Co-Writer with Michael Truong. What’s that like for you? How do you all develop ideas together? Where do you draw inspirations from?
I think ultimately we all draw ideas from our experiences and things we watch. They say nothing is original anymore which I’m inclined to agree. Let’s take Avatar for example. That’s basically the story of Pocahontas mixed with Halo and Jurassic Park. The Departed was literally a shameless rip off of Infernal Affairs and let’s not talk about any Bollywood film ever. When it comes down to it, your style is an amalgamation of everything you’ve ever seen or experienced.
Corner Shop Show has a big cult fanbase, with thousands of young people & families watching around the world. How does it feel to be part of the ‘Corner Shop Crew’?
At the end of the day, you become a film maker because you want the audience to enjoy what you’ve made. Knowing that something you help create is loved by thousands of people is why we do this. Having fun while doing it is just a bonus.
What’s it like working on a Corner Shop set? Is it any different from film sets you’ve been on in the past or your own? What difficulties do you face?
Corner Shop Show is a zero budget show so naturally the sets aren’t as big as some others but we’re very efficient. We make use of what we have and maximise that. Everyone is very hard working and friendly on set. You really get the sense that the team is working towards a common goal. I guess it’s good in a way that we’re small, because once you get to Hollywood levels there will be so much politics involved.
In your own few words, what can we expect for Kenny Chang's future in the coming episodes? Is he going to get more and more evil?
I think he will maintain his evilness and there will be fights involved so definitely look out for those.
Lastly, without sounding too cheesy, what advice would you give to someone out there who’s reading and wants to chase a dream like yours?
Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t underestimate the importance of help and strive to be the best at what you do. If you want to make it to the top you have to deserve to be at the top. That only comes from putting the work in.
Everyone’s got something to say but no one’s listening. You just have to say something they can’t ignore.
WATCH ROBERT HOANG IN CORNER SHOP SHOW - EPISODE 10