Uplifting AAPI Voices and Stories with Derek Basco

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Derek Basco is an actor, producer, and director known for Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Fabulous Filipino Brothers and Mayor of Kingstown. From his Filipino upbringing, Derek has embraced his heritage and focuses his efforts on telling AAPI stories by collaborating with other AAPI creators and the family production company, Team Basco.

Symbonic: Tell us about your background. How did you get to where you are today?

Derek Basco: I started out as a breakdancer in the San Francisco Bay area. My brothers and I had a group called THE STREAT FREAKS. We danced at all the bay area venues and even opened up for Prince in a nightclub. He went on at 2am and we weren’t allowed to stay and see him. We got scholarships to the San Francisco Ballet Company and we’re like little “Billy Elliots.” My mom moved us to Los Angeles in 1985 to pursue dancing, and that’s how we got into the entertainment business.

S: Can you talk about a project that you're particularly proud of? What made it successful in your eyes?

DB: I can not say enough about Fabulous Filipino Brothers. I mean it says it in the name. Filipinos are fabulous! Ha, ha, ha… My brother Dante Basco directed it and he co-wrote it with my siblings Darion Basco, Dionysio Basco, and Arianna Basco. It’s a family story about four brothers who all happen to be Asian - Filipino to be exact. We wanted to show Hollywood that you can have a movie with multiple Asian leading men and that it is viable. There is an audience out there who identify with it and will pay to see it. It’s currently streaming on Hulu, so please check it out if you can. It was shot in our hometown of Pittsburg, CA and even stars our real life parents, Darius and Aida Basco.

S: How do you foster and maintain relationships with your audience and collaborators?

DB: Social media is the new bridge. Whether you hate it or love it, it is now an integral part of our business. Back in the day, you had to watch all the entertainment shows like Entertainment Tonight or MTV Cribs to get a glimpse of your favorite creator. Now you just sign on to your computer or open your phone. You have to create some kind of online presence and keep it active to keep your audience engaged. 

S: What advice would you give to Asian Americans hoping to break into your line of work?  

DB: Tell your story and make it personal. Growing up I only had Bruce Lee to identify with and he was a cool dude. He was a handsome leading man who was highly skilled in martial arts and he had danger. He wasn’t this model minority or nerd that we are so often portrayed as in the media. Those portrayals are valid too but it's not the whole diaspora of what it means to be AAPI. So please write it, film it, and share it.  

S: With Team Basco, can you explain how you are creating more opportunity for Asian Americans?

DB: Team Basco is our production company. Through it we are producing Asian American stories through film, television and music. It wasn’t planned for my children to go into the entertainment business, but they chose it and we want to support them and whatever they may dream of. I hope they become examples to other kids who look like them and say I can do it too. We are helping our friends and other artists produce their projects as well.

S: How do you measure success in the creator economy? Is it based on metrics like followers, engagement, revenue, or something else entirely?

DB: You have to really be able to honor yourself. It may take years before someone recognizes you. To make a song or a film is a huge accomplishment. It’s all about the art. It takes a lot of hard work and support. Once it's done, the journey isn’t over. You have to go out and tell people about it or submit it to film festivals or go out and play concerts. You have to be able to self promote and believe in yourself before anyone else does, and soon everyone else will believe what you do. To me, inspiring the next generation of creators is really fulfilling.  

S: How do you see the creator economy evolving in the next 5-10 years?

DB: You know we are in a WGA writers strike because they are not properly being compensated for new media and streaming. It’s the same for us as actors. There is a record high number of shows, but they are not being paid the same. There is an influx of non-union work, especially in the television commercial world. All of this is making it harder for creators to make a living and to make enough to even qualify for health insurance. We need to see a shift within the next five years that honors creators and pays them accordingly.  

S: What types of intellectual property do you create or work with most often?

DB: Lately, I’ve been helping my children with their music. Ella Jay Basco and The Sibs (Deuce Basco and Emerson Basco). You can listen to their music on all streaming sites including Spotify and AppleMusic. Ella Jay has a new song dropping on May 31st called, “Embroidered.” Drea Rose co-wrote and produced this track with Ella and we are super excited for everyone to hear it.  

S: What are you currently working on that you're excited about?

DB: I’m producing a lot these days. I produced a short called VS directed by Jole Sanchez. My son Deuce Basco and I also star in it. It’s a Filipino immigrant story. I’m also producing a short film for Filipina filmmaker, Leslie Alejandro called Parachutes and helping filmmaker Andrea Walter on her short I’m in Love With Edgar Allan Poe. I’m also helping produce shorts for my daughters Ella Jay Basco and Emerson Basco.
Helping to get our stories on the big screen is one of my missions. But you can also see me as an actor in John Slattery’s film, Maggie Moore(s). It comes out June 16th this year!

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