The spirits shine a light for a young, exhausted, Hmong shaman. That light, is the spot light of acting and show biz! This absurd and dark dramedy tackles what it means to be a Hmong person today: to carry tradition and modernity, all while in the pursuit of happiness.
Mission StatementWe are a group of Hmong filmmakers, from three different regions, and one goal: to tell our stories. We understand the power of representation both on and off camera, and the need for our voices to be heard. Modern Shaman is an invitation to our community and all dreamers to go chase greatness!
About The Project
Hi, I'm Gregory Yang, the creator of Modern Shaman. I’m considered a bad Hmong boy (a Hmong person who can’t speak Hmong). When I was younger, my family would make jokes about what if I became a shaman and I couldn’t speak Hmong. These jokes essentially became the soul of this story. At first, this project was just a sketch, but after a year of research and work, it became so much more.
Billy Lor, cultural consultant and shaman. Photo credit: Across the Mountains
I interviewed a young shaman named Billy Lor, (now our cultural consultant), and he told me the burdens of of being a shaman. Shamans work grueling and hard jobs for little to no pay, practically volunteering.
People usually get the call to be shamans at age 30 or older. However, an alarming rate of younger people receiving the call. Mystification surrounds shamanism, and that can unintentionally leave shamans feeling ostracized, especially shamans of the younger generation. Billy told me how impactful this show will be for Hmong people, especially for the young shamans who need someone to relate to. If that isn't a call to action, I don’t know what is.
Representation matters, and the Modern Shaman team and I will do our best to represent the Hmong community and the shamans that serve us tirelessly. This bad Hmong boy can’t wait to tell our collected stories to the world. We'd love your help in order to do so. Thank you!
Chosen by the ancestors, Modern Shaman is granted the gift of spiritually healing sick members of his community, and the curse of interacting with the dead. Though dutiful, he is drained of the demands by his community and their spirits.
After stumbling into an acting class with the nudge from his sister, he discovers he is a natural actor and is invited to audition for Romeo and Juliet. However, the dates of the audition conflict with a weekend full of important shamanic ceremonies. He now must choose between duty vs desire and community vs self, all while carrying repressed grief of a loved one. This all doesn't help with zany spirits running amuck.
Modern Shaman is an absurd and satirical dramedy that’s seen through a Hmong American lens. It’s the constant battle we have between both our Hmong traditions and American upbringing. This show critiques and embraces our culture and tells a much needed story for Hmong and Asian Americans. Even though society has told us to stay in our lane, and traditional burdens may hold us back, Modern Shaman is the spirit guide we need to validate us to chase greatness and happiness!
Modern Shaman is a show filled with conflicting relationships, the same relationships that Hmong and immigrant children go through. Self vs community, desire vs duty, and tradition vs modernity. We also show the relationship between the human body vs the spirit. This is show for anyone trying to find that balance.
We are experienced Hmong filmmakers that have spent years of dedication to our craft. We have found ourselves in this wonderful, rare position of Agency to tell this beautiful Hmong story. We are hungry, loud, and bursting to let our stories be heard.
One of the satiric themes of this show is the Hmong people's desires to reach mainstream success. We believe that this pilot presentation to capitalize on that. We also believe in opening doors for others in the community. When trying to find Hmong film and television references for this project, there wasn't much to find. When we finish this project, we hope this will inspire other Hmong filmmakers and possibly have Modern Shaman be a stepping stone for their future stories.
Two Distinct Worlds
The Real World: The majority of where the show resides. This is the realm of humans, but occasionally lost souls of the spirit world bleed over on this plane. Lighting will be natural, realistic, and warm.
The Spirit World: The realm of lost souls. People are made up of two things, a body and spirit. Sometimes the spirits of the living get lost in this world, and it's up to shamans to send their own spirit to this realm to bring them back. They'll be hard shadows, primarliy a red scheme to symbolize the red cloth and burning incense.
Did you know that the Twin Cities is the third largest theater market in the country? We want to highlight Twin Cities theaters, especially smaller theater companies that are in the forefront of representing actors from marginalized communities.
We want our set to also reflect what a traditional Hmong Midwestern home looks like, and introduce audiences to our cultural ceremonies. These ceremonies are practiced in our very homes, gathered by family and supportive community members.
We are so blessed and fortunate to receive the Minnesota State Arts Board Grant for this project, but filmmaking is an expensive craft. This grant is the cornerstone for our budget and we hope to reach our total budget goal of $18,000 with the help of the amazing Seed and Spark community.
With your help, we can feed, protect, and pay our cast and crew, rent amazing locations, decorate our cultural set, and much more!
Reaching $12,000: Our fundraiser goal is met.
Reaching $13,000: We’ll have more flexibility of film rentals if needed and be able to cover film festival fees.
Reaching $14,000: Will be spent for better quality post production and more contingency.
Reaching $15,000: Will be spent on higher wages for our hard working cast and crew.
Creating, producing, and writing this project have been such a challenging and rewarding process... and we've only just begun. Thank you all so much for investing your time to read this part of our Seed and Spark campaign.
How you can help?
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Thank you so much!
-Team Modern Shaman
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About This Team
Gregory Yang (he/him/his) is a Hmong American actor and writer based out of Minneapolis and Los Angeles. He has had the privilege to work on the stages of some of Minnesota's finest theatre companies including: Theater Mu, Park Square Theatre, Full Circle Theater Company, Nimbus Theatre, and more. In addition, he has collaborated with other Hmong production companies such as Good Zoo Studios.
His goal as an actor and writer is to tell engaging stories that reflect the modern Asian American experience, and to help open the door for other Hmong and Southeast Asian storytellers.
Upcoming: Playing Sam Shizake in Fire in The New World with Full Circle Theater Company.
Kang Vang (pronoun indifferent) is a filmmaker who has worked in the media arts field for over 20 years as an artist, teacher, and community leader, focusing on issues that affect communities of color. Since the early 2000's, he has completed six feature length films, with themes of domestic abuse, gang violence, identity and cross-generational family problems, and the refugee experience along with others. His films have been shown all over the country, and have been used as educational tools in schools and universities. Kang is the founder and Director of Team Chow Fa Productions for the past 15 years. He has also developed media education curricula for schools, taught at-risk youth how to think critically about social issues, provided leadership skills development through media productions to promote awareness of social issues.
He is a former recipient of grants and awards from the Jerome Foundation, MRAC, MSAB, Knight Foundation, and is currently a 2022 McKnight Foundation Fellow.
Chue Zeng Yang
Chue Zeng Yang (he/him/his) is a Hmong American artist with experience in filmmaking, photography and design. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BS in Art with a Graphic Design emphasis and major coursework in the Film and Video production program.
Chue has over 10 years of experience working in marketing and advertising as a Creative Director, In-house Director, DP, and Editor. He is the founder of Spiritfolk, an independent creative cooperative focused on design, content, and visual storytelling that is rooted in Hmong culture.
Mai Moua Thao
Co-Producer/Social Media Manager
Mai Moua Thao (she/her/hers) is a first-generaton graduate of Macalester College ’22 with a B.A. in Media & Cultural Studies and Theater & Dance. During her time in college Mai has worked on a number film projects which include “Project Openwords,” “Vivid: Asian American Re-Written,” and “Hmong House.” She has worked with organizations such as Saint Paul Neighborhood Network, Asian Media Access and is an alumna of the JGS: Imagining America Fellowship.
Mai dabbles in photography, dance/theater performance, and writing. She works to continue amplifing voices of marginalized communities. Mai’s artistic journey serves as a space of resistance, reflection, and re-imagination of the world we live in.
Associate Producer/1st Assistant Director
Jeremy Thao (he/him/his) is a Hmong American screenwriter and director from Atlanta. His top objectives as a filmmaker are to create space and opportunities for underrepresented peoples to explore the world of filmmaking and help bring their stories to the silver screen. Jeremy's filmmaking highlights voices and narratives that have been traditionally overlooked and hopes to encourage others to share their stories as well.
His upcoming short film, "Wokman" won the Spring 2021 Film Impact Georgia Filmmaking Grant, which Jeremy's BIPOC and women-led team of indie filmmakers are currently in pre-production for. Production is planned for August 2022 with hopes for a successful film festival circuit in 2023.
Tub Ntxawg Billy Lauj (he/they/nws) is a traditional Hmong shaman who has practiced holistic healing and spiritual consulting for over a decade. Over the years Billy has performed hundreds of ceremonies throughout the United States but has based most of his work in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Globally, he has assisted Hmong communities residing in France, Southeast Asia and Australia.
Billy has advised, keynoted and given numerous workshops on Hmong Shamanism, cultural practices and cultural competency. Throughout his work Billy has sat on a medical community advisory board, Hmong economic development board, collaborated with film documentaries, and assisted in state wide research initiatives on the wider Hmong community. Outside of community work he teaches private Hmong culture and lesson classes and is a content creator on his social media platform called “Hey Billy”. On his platform he teaches and educates on Hmong traumas, culture, art and spirituality.