‘Do What I Want’ spin-off doc depicts struggles of up-and-coming Asian American DJs

‘Do What I Want’ spin-off doc depicts struggles of up-and-coming Asian American DJs‘Do What I Want’ spin-off doc depicts struggles of up-and-coming Asian American DJs
Michelle De Pacina
22 days ago
Driven by his immersion in the nightlife scene and the compelling stories of aspiring Asian American DJs, Filipino director Justin Ferrer has released a spin-off edition to his 2023 documentary film “Do What I Want.” 
Following the success of “Do What I Want” (DWIW), which highlighted the journeys of Asian creatives in Southern California, Ferrer continues to showcase raw glimpses at success in motion to empower Asians and Asian Americans to “do what they want,” even if their creative passion is often subjected to ridicule. 
The spin-off edition, accompanied with an official soundtrack, focuses on up-and-coming Vietnamese and Filipino DJs in different stages of their career, offering a diverse spectrum of experiences for audiences to connect with. 
“I heard the stories of aspiring DJs, each fueled by a unique journey and relentless determination,” Ferrer tells NextShark. “Their narratives sparked a fire within me, igniting the desire to produce a documentary that celebrates the rise of talented Asian American DJs. I handpicked each DJ with precision. From those just embarking on their DJ journey, navigating the hustle and securing gigs, to seasoned artists managing the delicate balance amid a whirlwind of performances. Each DJ represents a different chapter in the journey of life.”
The documentary, set to premiere this Friday, spotlights the journeys of Seduza, Mazd, Athena, Jakob Mesina, Brkn, Way2pac and Jey. It offers an intimate look into the challenges and hurdles these DJs navigate within the industry. From the scarcity of opportunities and the necessity to carve out their own niche, to the importance of fostering supportive networks and managing irregular sleep schedules, the film uncovers the multifaceted realities of their careers.
via Aaron Veralde
“When I would go to events on weekdays to network, I’d look around and see mostly 5’11 Caucasian men,” Vietnamese American DJ Athena shares. “As a 5’1 petite Asian woman, it’s very easy to dismiss me because I’m small and I don’t look like everyone else. It was and still is intimidating to approach these guys and try to spark a conversation.”
She also addresses issues of sexism and seniority, noting the disparity in representation between men and women in music festivals. “There’s a statistic I read that women play two to three times more shows compared to men, yet women make up only 27% of music festivals. In my opinion, female artists have more pressure to perform to a certain level and we have to prove ourselves that we deserve to be there along with the other men on the lineup.”
The decision to pursue DJing as a full-time career has also posed significant challenges for the other talents, particularly in achieving financial stability and freedom. This struggle is also often met with lack of familial support, which necessitates additional efforts to cultivate a distinctive and authentic brand.
“I knew that if I wanted to transition out of the ordinary ‘9-5,’ I couldn’t assume that everything I had planned was going to work, and so I mapped out and created ways to which if I could be successful in, would put ease in my mind knowing that I could tell my parents that this is what I wanted to do,” says DJ Brkn, who diversified his income streams by organizing nightlife events, entering the wedding and corporate entertainment sectors and offering mentoring services to aspiring DJs.
“This lifestyle, coupled with constant travel and exposure to loud environments, can take a toll on both physical and mental well-being,” adds Filipino American DJ Mazd. “Balancing the demands of a DJ career with personal relationships and other commitments requires ongoing effort, but by prioritizing health and nurturing supportive connections, it’s possible to thrive both personally and professionally in this dynamic industry.”
Ferrer believes the film offers invaluable lessons in resilience and determination that extend beyond the DJ booth. “DJing transcends the surface image of playing tunes at clubs or parties; it embodies a relentless hustle, a nuanced business acumen, and above all, a captivating art form,” he says.
via Justin Ferrer
To accompany the film’s release, Ferrer has taken it a step further with the “Do What I Want Tour,” offering the featured DJs an opportunity to showcase their talents at select clubs across Southern California. Moreover, the 22-year-old director has also launched a “Do What I Want DJ Radio,” which aims to provide listeners with a convenient way to connect with DJs, regardless of their location. This platform ensures accessibility for those unable to attend live events, allowing audiences to “experience the energy and vibes wherever they are.”
As for the film’s official soundtrack, it was curated by emerging artists whose passion and determination align with the brand’s “DWIW” message. According to Ferrer, the response to the soundtrack since its release on April 6 has been “overwhelmingly positive,” resonating not only with fans in the U.S. but also internationally, including audiences in Asia. 
“Our brand is all about breaking boundaries and giving DJs the freedom to express themselves authentically,” Ferrer says. “We didn’t want to confine them to playing just club music or top 40 hits. Instead, we encourage our artists to showcase the music that truly reflects who they are as individuals, allowing for a diverse range of sounds and styles.”
Open format Filipino American DJ Way2pac believes the new documentary is important in fostering camaraderie within the Asian community and showcasing the strong work ethic instilled in Asian households in a creative field. As for others like JEY, being part of the film has helped allow him to envision a future where Asian talent is recognized and embraced in industries that have historically lacked diversity. 
“I see DWIW spreading Asian talent and representation to markets that may have zero to no Asian representation to begin with,” Jey says. “My hope is for audiences to watch the DWIW film and be inspired to pursue their passions in life.”  
Jakob Mesina echoed the same sentiment, noting that the “DWIW” spin-off documentary is “a true representation of Asian American creatives and is part of growing awareness and creating history.” 
“I hope the audience learns that we all have our own walks of life that we’re on,” Seduza adds. “I hope to inspire DJs to know that there are a plethora of ways to start one’s journey in the DJ space and there’s no rush. The Asian community of creatives is extensive and there are always opportunities being shared. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, in the creative space there’s always space to create your own opportunities.”
The film will premiere at 6 p.m. PT at The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, California, on Friday. It will also be available on the official “Do What I Want” YouTube channel
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