By Christine Joy Ferrer
It was back in April 2010, that I first interviewed Richard Che. The last time I checked, he wanted readers to know that he was single (haha I wonder if that’s still true).
For those of you who don’t know, I’d like to introduce you to Richard Che the badass director/cameraman/editor/DDR extraordinaire of Kanauru Productions, a video production company based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was inspired by his work with Hip Hop choreographer Shaun Evaristo and the rise of Movement Lifestyle (and a tip from in-color.net), a choreography management company that’s laying down the foundation to expose visual artists and finding ways to showcase their talent and creativity. They hope to inspire the world by featuring one artist at a time.
This summer, Kanauru traveled with Movement Lifestyle to document their work with international, Asian pop/hip-hop artists Taeyang, Se7en, and 2NE1 of YG Entertainment. Kanauru is also known for remaking Korean music videos, such as Taeyang’s “Where U At.” Their most recent remake, Taeyang’s “Wedding Dress,” released November 11th. So cheers Richard Che, the guy who’s carried a digitial camera in his pocket almost everyday since 7th grade. He may be behind the camera, but he won’t be invisible for long.
Christine Joy Ferrer: What does “Kanauru” mean and what’s the story behind your production company?
Richard Che: I always find it embarrassing when people ask me that. I made that word up by combining two Japanese words together in 11th grade. I had a video project due for English class and I needed a name for my “production.” Kanauru Productions just stuck. As to what it means, only a few people know.
Kanauru’s first video was our “Red Badge of Courage” which is amusingly still on Youtube. My friends asked me to join their group to do a video for an English class project. I pretty much took over all the aspects of directing, editing, and shooting. We did it big, got a bunch of extras and guns for our Civil War re-enactment. We walked around carrying a Confederate flag. I even remember someone driving past us and yelling, “THE WAR IS OVER MAN!” … After that, I took any opportunity to film for class.
I still do that even now with my college classes. I did one for, “Three Cups of Tea.” The best thing to do as a filmmaker is to constantly be filming things, regardless of how small or large the production. Experience and practice goes a long way.
But what really made Kanauru Production today is our “Only Look At Me” video. From that Qui played a small role as a backup dancer and then moved up to a main dancer in our “Replay” remake. During the production of the “Replay” video I asked Qui if he would be willing to film a remake for Taeyang’s video “Prayer” and he accepted the lead role. From then on he was Kanauru’s Taeyang, aka Qui Yang or Young Youngbae. Everyone is constantly giving him different names. Ever since then Qui been my right-hand man. Most of the videos, especially the Movement Lifestyle videos, are just Qui and I ( 2 man crew ) working behind the scenes. Qui is really what made Kanuaru what it is today.
CJF: How did you get started?
Che: To keep it short, I’ve always loved filming and taking pictures. Even in elementary I always tried to get my hands on a camera or video camera. Originally my “dream” was to become a computer engineer. And look at me now filming and taking pictures, getting paid for what I love to do.
Like choreographers, when I listen to music I’m empowered and inspired. I want to do the same through film like what they do with dance.
CJF: I see you have quite a portfolio of dance-inspired videos. Is there a reason why you’ve gravitated towards the arts?
Che: I started out shooting mostly short films. But one summer my friend Ryan sent me a link to a video which was Taeyang’s “Only Look at Me” music video. I saw it and was instantly inspired. I actually still possess that chat log. But anyway, I told him I wanted to make a music video like that. A month later, I started organizing a cast for the remake. After filming it, I realized I really loved filming music videos.
I love dance and music. Music is so powerful and amazing by itself. But when you add dance, it allows the music to live through movement. Filming brings both arts to a whole different level. Dancing happens when the music consumes you and you just gotta’ express yourself. As a result, you explode with movement haha. It’s instinct. When the music drops, you either dance or move. If you got the head bobbing thing going on, that works too. Filming + Music + Dancing = Music Videos, the perfect combination for me.
CJF: Why did you decide to work with Shaun and produce Movement Lifestyle?
Che: Funny story. Essentially I was a fan of Shaun’s work, I believed he had a great vision and I wanted to help him make it happen. So, Qui (Taeyang) was following Shaun on Twitter. Shaun’s twitter said he was going to be in Daly City to teach a class. Qui wanted to interview him so we sent Shaun an email. But he didn’t reply. However, a few days later, I checked my email and behold, an email from SHAUN EVARISTO (yes, his name actually showed up in all caps). Shaun had seen our “Only Look At Me” remake and wanted to meet us to discuss a possible collaboration. We met Shaun up at the Westfield mall in downtown San Francisco. He explained what he was trying to start and achieve. Shaun asked if I was available that night to film something and I said sure. Well actually, I had to ditch my friends because I had already purchased a ticket to watch Avatar in IMAX. But ditching my friends was totally worth it. I’ve been working with Shaun ever since. And no, I still haven’t seen Avatar to this day.
CJF: What’s it like working with the amazing performers and entertainers
that you work with?
Che: It’s quite awesome. Meeting Shaun was amazing. Since Shaun literally knows everyone, I keep meeting even more amazing people. In the dance community, these people are celebrities. But now that I’ve got to know them, they’re like family. Everyone is friendly and hilarious, I love them all. It’s also amusing to see the constant dancing. When the music is on, whether they’re driving or just eating breakfast, they can’t stop dancing. I’m proud to be a part of the dance community and I’m happy I’m able to contribute to their passion.
And of course we got to meet Taeyang, 2NE1, and Se7en in Korea so that was a pretty awesome experience. One day, Shaun asked if we had the money to fly down to South Korea the next week– talk about short notice. While it was expensive, Qui and I decided it was a once in a lifetime chance. We spent the entire week in South Korea at the YG studio with Movement Lifestyle choreographers Shaun Evaristo, Keone Madrid, and Mari Martin. We documented the entire creative process of Movement Lifestyle, from them choreographing routines to teaching the artists and dancers the choreography.
CJF: What does it mean to you to be doing the work that you do as an Asian American?
Che: I sometimes receive comments from the Asian American community about how they like my work, are inspired and are proud to live in San Francisco or even to be an Asian. It’s also interesting that people are always constantly asking whether Qui’s Vietnamese or Shaun’s Filipino. And once they discover their ethnicity, people become more prideful and proud of their ethnicity and community.
During my senior year in highschool one of my teachers asked me, “Why don’t you become a photographer? There aren’t many professional Asian photographers. You should go for it.” But, I told her I didn’t want to become a photographer because it’s difficult to make money in the arts, especially since it’s not exactly the best paying job unless you really make it big. However, after filming “Only Look at Me” I realized that filming was my passion. While I may be somewhat concerned about it being financially unstable, I wanted to continue doing it because it’s what I do best and what I love. I didn’t want to spend most of my life hating my job and living everyday like it was a chore.
CJF: So what’s the project you’re most proud of and why?
Che: Honestly, I don’t really have one. I’m always seeking to improve and beat myself, hence my perfectionist trait. Artists in general continue to improve throughout life and are always seeking to raise the bar for themselves. I tend to look forward to being proud of what I’m going to produce than what I already produced.
CJF: So what’s next?
Che: Shaun, Lando, and the other Movement Lifestyle choreographers are always full of ideas that need to be filmed and so I just keep getting work. Also thanks to Movement Lifestyle, I’m getting gigs from other people. Choreography in a studio can stand on it’s own. The stage brings choreography to life but is still limited. Some may argue that it’s better watching it live than on screen. I can understand that too, both have unique qualities. But if done well, film can enhance the choreography and allows one to fully express their creativity in a way that simply couldn’t be achieved on a stage. I’m also focused on filming personal projects that express my vision and entertain. Most of the Movement Lifestyle projects are the choreographers vision, not mine. Like choreographers, when I listen to music I’m empowered and inspired. I want to do the same through film, like what they do with dance.