The Berkeley Forum hosted a Fireside Chat with filmmaker and BuzzFeed executive video producer Aria Inthavong on Feb. 16. Open to the Berkeley community, the event took place at UC Berkeley’s Morrison Library, garnering an audience of 25 individuals.
Campus senior Christie Maly conducted the interview and moderated the question and answer session at the end of the event. Maly said she hoped to hear about Inthavong’s background as a Lao-American creator, as well as about Southeast Asian representation in media, content creation for big brands like BuzzFeed and competition across various social media platforms.
“To be a creator, you really want to have to take ownership over your ideas and you have to be passionate and connected,” Maly said after the event. “Aria really referenced that he likes staying at BuzzFeed because people support his ideas, and even for his personal channel he goes and does events that really don’t make enough profit, but he is passionate about it.”
During the event, Inthavong noted that out of the vast range of his video production, which includes his own films and true crime, he takes the most pride in the content centered around humanity. He’s drawn to the stories he finds most compelling to tell and aims to expose audiences to new experiences, he noted — including furries.
Inthavong said he is glad digital media provides increasing opportunities for people of color, though he also recognized the lack of representation for Southeast Asians.
He noted that the online community residing in YouTube comment sections shows his followers can relate to him.
“They root for me because they see themselves in me,” Inthavong said.
Inthavong garnered traction with his online presence, particularly after his “e-boy” collaboration with Chase Hudson. However, Inthavong expressed the difficulty of transitioning as a main creator to growing platforms like TikTok, which is designed for shorter videos than what he is used to on YouTube.
Moving between content on his BuzzFeed and personal channels, Inthavong said he is grateful for the support he receives from BuzzFeed and for the various creative platforms, which he said have kept him there. Inthavong added that although the traveling videos on his channel cost him money, the bill is worth it to tell his stories.
Inthavong initially dedicated himself to documentaries of his loved ones, he noted, though he later developed a passion for unscripted videos. Now, he covers true crime stories as a move toward more serious content. However, he said he grapples with the ethics of true crime and feels uneasy about the culture of profiting off victims’ stories. Rather, he hopes to focus his coverage around content that adds value to the story.