Interview with Young Man Kang, Festival Director of LA WEBFEST and Hollywood Series

Young Man Kang Discusses How Webfest Changed His Life

USAjournalist | 기사입력 2024/06/19 [05:01]

▲ Director Young Man Kang  © USAjournalist


Young Man Kang has been a prolific independent filmmaker in the 90s Los Angeles indie scene. After the millennium, he returned to his home country, Korea, to start KWEBFEST (aka Seoul Webfest) and then came back to Los Angeles to run LA WEBFEST after the original founder’s passing in 2018. Recently, he concluded LA WEBFEST 2024 very successfully in Hollywood, Los Angeles, and is now preparing for another event, Hollywood Series 2024, upcoming in November. We now interview him following the LA WEBFEST event.



  • Interviewer: Can you talk about the very beginning of LA WEBFEST in 2009 when the internet was still in its early stage? And how has the festival grown over the years since then?

YMK: The founder of LA WEBFEST is Michael Ajakwe Jr., who established the festival in 2009 in Hollywood/Los Angeles. I discovered the festival in 2013 while I was in LA making independent feature films. Michael was a TV writer/producer who envisioned a global celebration of the web series format, and his vision became a reality as webfests emerged all over the world, including Marseille Webfest, Melbourne Webfest, Rome Webfest, DC Webfest, and more. Some webfests come and go, some are slow, and some are doing well. Altogether, there have been around 50 webfests, both offline and online, since then, now in 2024. The LA WEBFEST has a long history of discovering new talent and fostering creativity in the web series format. Issa Rae, star and creator of "Insecure," originally screened her show "Awkward Black Girl" at the LA WEBFEST, and her co-star Yvonne Orgi was discovered by LA WEBFEST founder Michale Ajakwe, Jr.

  • Interviewer: However, LA WEBFEST lost its founder and guiding light in 2018 when Michael Ajakwe Jr. passed away. He had visited KWEBFEST (Seoul Webfest) twice and continued to actively support the event and its founder, Young Man Kang, who eventually assumed the position of festival director in 2022 after the event had been halted for four years. How has the event been running for the past three years?

YMK: Becoming the festival director of LA WEBFEST was both a blessing and a heavy responsibility. I was worried about how I could uplift this amazing and meaningful web festival, keep Michael's legacy alive, and ensure it continued running. 2022 was very challenging in light of the post-pandemic situation, but I was determined to make it happen. It went well. Over the past three years, some forgotten creators have slowly noticed the rebirth and revival of LA WEBFEST. They have gathered and participated, not only from the USA but also from all around the world.


  • Interviewer: Can you talk about the uniqueness of the past three years of events?

YMK: By combining the best of traditional film and television festivals with emerging technologies such as AI, OTT platform series, podcasts, and social media videos, our media festival provides a platform where seasoned veterans and newcomers can come together with one goal in mind: to create amazing art. Our festival promotes and supports all independent filmmakers and creators, from those with zero budget to green-light filmmakers, creators, influencers, YouTubers, amateurs, and professionals in all different aspects.

Since 2023, we’ve expanded award genres and now accept podcasts and long-form series. Surprisingly, the podcast market is huge with a wide variety of projects from all over the world. Long-form series, compared to short-form series, often feature bigger names and larger productions. For example, in 2023, some of the nominees included Jason Momoa for his role in "See," Paula Patton for "Somewhere Between," and Randy Huggins for creating "BMF," a popular crime drama produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.

In 2024, we will honor long-form storytelling from major players such as HBO Max, Apple TV+, Amazon, BET+, Angel Studios, TruTV, and South Korea Studio V+. The 2024 honorees include the BET dramedy "Diarra From Detroit," the Oscar-winning short turned HBO animated series "Young Love," Amazon's trans docuseries "Always Jane," the podcast-inspired Apple TV+ drama "WeCrashed," the CollegeHumor adaptation "Adam Ruins Everything,” and the independent film phenomenon "Sound of Freedom."

Directors, writers, actresses, and actors up for top prizes in the long-form category include Jared Leto, Anne Hathaway, Kid Cudi, Alejandro Monteverde, Jim Caviezel, WGA strike hero Adam Conover, and international K-Pop star Jinyoung, just to name a few.


▲ Festival Director Young Man Kang  © USAjournalist


- Interviewer: How is your 2025 preparations and how the filmmakers and creators to involve?


YMK: In 2025 next year, we’re expanding more projects will be selected, especially Podcasts and Long-form series.  Also we’re encourage to participants to come and join the event, it’s nice location heart of Hollywood and will make many network and connections at the event.
For 2025 we opened for submissions. We accept series of long-form and short form, short films, pilots, podcasts, trailer, vertical and more for from all genres drama, comedy, dramedy, sketch comedy, action, sci-fi, thriller, Horror, documentary, reality, animation, and etc.
The submission can be found at the webfest:  www.lawebfest.net  



- Interviewer: Now you’re doing an online version Webfest called Hollywood Series. Is it already the 8th edition?


YMK: I founded Hollywood Series in 2017 under the name Asia Web Awards while I was in Seoul running K Webfest. Some creators missed the deadline to submit, and some creators wanted to submit but didn't qualify for webfests because their projects were either too short or too long. So, I thought we needed to accept projects of all lengths and offer more variety. For example, we now have categories for podcasts, music videos, social media videos, and even AI films. Nowadays, we are focusing more on AI-related projects.

Doing another in-person event might have been too difficult, so I decided to set up an online-style webfest for the first time. It has been successful, allowing us to give out many awards and help promote and support many independent and upcoming filmmakers and content creators.

In 2022, when I became the festival director of LA WEBFEST and moved back to Los Angeles, I changed the name to Hollywood Series. Now, Hollywood Series 2024 accepts all kinds of projects, so visit and submit at www.hollywoodseries.net




▲ The 15th Annual LA WEBFEST 2024 Red Carpet Photos  © USAjournalist





- Interviewer: How do you balance running the festivals and being a filmmaker?


YMK: There are pros and cons to running a webfest. When Michael Ajakwe suggested that I start one, I initially didn’t like the idea, but I’m glad I did it. It taught me things that I didn’t get to experience through filmmaking alone. Through the webfest, I was able to establish a great network of connections all over the world, which has actually helped me get more opportunities for filmmaking overseas and co-producing with other countries. Additionally, I traveled a lot through the webfest, attending many speaking engagements, panels, seminars, and educational programs. As someone who enjoys traveling and learning about different cultures, this has ultimately helped me in my filmmaking as well. For example, I can easily find talented local artists through webfest visits, making it easier to co-produce and get support from them.



- Interviewer: Any new project from you we can look forward to as a filmmaker?


YMK: I’m currently working on a series called ‘Prayer,’ and I have already shot versions in Istanbul, Rome, Japan, Rio, and so far 14 cities. I am planning to shoot the Panama version while I am at the Panama Series Festival in July. Each short film is around 6 to 9 minutes long, and each city has its own actors and languages. Wherever I travel or attend webfests, I aim to shoot these shorts in different cities. As I mentioned in the previous interview, through webfest visits, I’ve been able to get support from local webfests or co-produce with their talent and artists. You can watch all 14 episodes by searching “Prayer International Series” on YouTube.

I am also in the development and pre-production stage of a co-production involving three countries – Germany, Italy, and South Korea. It’s called “Lotte Italian,” and it’s based on the story of the German novelist Goethe, who traveled to Italy for two years and had a secret love affair with an Italian woman. She was the inspiration for him to write another version of “The Sorrows of Young Werther.” The film is a road movie and thriller, similar to “The Da Vinci Code.” 


▲ Young Man Kang Speaks at Cibertec University in Lima, Peru  © USAjournalist

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