To independent filmmaker Derek Ting, Hong Kong is the place that made his dream come true. It is the city where he and partner Joyce Yung began a decade-long ride in filmmaking and production with the founding of Random Art Workshop, which has produced three narrative feature films and a range of creative content.
A decade into navigating Asia and the West throughout a globe-trotting filmmaking journey, the company strives to grow bigger with greater ambition to turn future projects into new vehicles that would allow the company’s founders to give back to the city while supporting international productions from a global perspective.
“We want to be the global leader in telling universal impactful stories by guiding creators to maximize a project’s vision and potential leveraging technology and adaptability to optimize workflow,” Yung tells Variety.
“I understand the Western taste and I also have the sensitivity towards the Eastern culture. Put me in Hollywood or in the East, I can help to make the work better,” says Ting, who serves as RAW’s creative director.
Hailing from New York, Ting began his love affair with the cinematic arts while he was majoring in statistics at Cornell University, where he began pursuing acting opportunities. He continued to audition for roles and take up part-time acting gigs while working full-time at DoubleClick, which was later acquired by Google.
But the reality was that as an Asian-American male, acting roles were limited in the United States. Life took on a different turn in late 2005 when he moved to Hong Kong, where he became a producer at CNN. He was about to sever his ties with acting but was pulled back into performing when he landed himself on-camera opportunities in commercials a year later followed by a small role in the 2008 feature “Largo Winch,” which starred Kristin Scott Thomas. The experience made him realize that the cinematic world was his true calling.
The lack of roles meant Ting had to take on the creative side of filmmaking. He co-founded RAW with his partner Yung in 2009 and went on to produce the financial thriller “Supercapitalist” (2012), “Always” (2015), a cross-border romantic drama, and sci-fi action thriller “Agent Intelligence” (2017), not only serving as the star and writer of the titles but also as director for “Always” and “Agent Intelligence.”
The past months saw Ting keeping himself occupied with the post-production of “Agent Revelation” (pictured), an expansion of the universe of “Agent Intelligence” to kick off an international saga. Written and directed by Ting, the $1.5 million “Agent Revelation” sci-fi action thriller deals with ancient mysteries and the existence of aliens. The film stars Michael Dorn (“Star Trek: First Contact”), Kayla Ewell (“The Vampire Diaries”), YouTube influencer Matthew Burnett and Ting. The film will be released in North America in January 2021 in premium VOD format and theaters pending the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. “Agent Revelation” is distributed by Quiver Distribution with international sales handled by Level 33 Entertainment.
But the “Agent” saga won’t end there. Having shot the first two installments in the U.S., Ting wants to bring the third part to Hong Kong, where he is based. The project, with working title “Agent Allegiance” and a budget of $5 million, is in script stage and principal photography is scheduled to commence in the fourth quarter of 2021, depending on the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, he says.
Setting the next installment of the “Agent” saga in Hong Kong will allow Ting and RAW to present a different image of his adopted home a global audience.
Besides keeping a strong pipeline of original creative projects, Ting also sees RAW as a facilitator to support young creatives in the region, whether by offering them opportunities to collaborate or helping them with project development.
“I see ourselves being a part of bigger projects that are not necessarily ours. While continuing with our own projects, we also want to be part of other projects that are beyond our scope,” Ting says.
“Our philosophy is that art is for everyone. If I can do it, other people can do it. In the future, we want to help nurture partner creators and help them to get off the ground.”
Among RAW’s most high profile projects are its feature films, which strive to tell universally appealing stories from a global perspective that bridges the gap between East and West:
Despite being one of the world’s biggest financial capitals, stories about Hong Kong’s financial industries are not among the dominating genres in the city’s long lineage of film and television productions. But Ting chose to tackle this subject matter in his first major film “Supercapitalist.” Written by Ting, who also plays the lead role, and directed by Simon Yin, the thriller follows the adventure of a New York hedge fund trader treading in murky waters of Hong Kong’s financial world. Also starring the Golden Globe-nominated Linus Roache (“Batman Begins,” “Law & Order”) and Hong Kong veterans Kenneth Tsang (“Overheard 2 and 3”) and Richard Ng (“Rigor Mortis”), the film was released by Warner Bros. in 2012 via the day-and-date distribution model.
In the second feature film produced by Random Art Workshop, Ting took on the director’s role in this romantic drama he wrote. The story follows a successful lawyer in Hong Kong, played by Ting, who gets romantically involved with an heiress to a Shanghai hotel empire played by Danni Wang (“Made in China”), but love is not necessarily smooth sailing. The film was premiered at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival. It was picked up by Paramount for an international VOD release across more than 60 countries.
From financial thriller and romance, Ting ventured into the world of aliens and conspiracy theories in “Agent,” the first of a three-part sci-fi action thriller. Set in California, the story begins with a group of friends going on a gun instruction course in the desert but accidentally unleash a mysterious power. The incident leads to a series of strange events that serve as a test to the group’s friendships. Starring Marikah Cunningham, Eric Keitel and Ting himself, the film was acquired by Hulu and released across major streaming platforms.